The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has condemned last week Friday’s attack by suspected APC members on a High Court in River State.
The attackers, who blocked the court around 11 a.m that Friday, were believed to be members of a faction of the ruling All progressive Congress (APC), seeking to stop a judge from pronouncing a judgement in a suit filed by an opposing faction of the same party.
According to multiple sources who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, at least two persons were killed and others injured in the attack.
In the statement signed by Mr Onnoghen’s spokesperson, Awassam Bassey; the CJN said the attack could be visited on other courts, if not checked.
“The Honourable, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Mr. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, GCON, has been informed of an attack on the Port Harcourt High Court complex on Friday, 11th May, 2018.
“According to the reports, this attack took place as Judges, Magistrates, staff and lawyers reported for duty at the said Rivers State High Court Complex in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. Judicial and non-Judicial staff were denied access to the Complex as all the gates had been padlocked and the buildings surrounded by hoodlums.
“These hoodlums, who were said to be heavily armed, reportedly inflicted bodily harm to Judicial Officers and other staff of the Judiciary going about their lawful duties and destroyed some properties belonging to the Judiciary.
“This action was aimed at stopping the Court from sitting and delivering a ruling in an intra-party dispute of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in respect of the Local Government congresses of the party in the State,” the statement said.
It added that the action was disturbing.
“This latest act of intimidation of the judiciary and the unwarranted violence against a peaceful institution of an Arm of Government is quite disturbing. More importantly, such show of shame ought not to be encouraged by right thinking members of the Nigerian Public.”
The statement also expressed fears about further attacks as Nigeria approaches the 2019 election year.
“If the enemies of our peace and democracy succeed or get away with what occurred at the High Court in Port-Harcourt, it would be a source of encouragement to them to do same to the Court of Appeal, and ultimately, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, whenever any one of them perceives that a judgment may be delivered against any of them or the interests they represent.
“The Judiciary remains the last hope of man, and our Judges and Judicial Officers are called upon to remain true to their Oath of Office. They must remain focused, resolute, and courageous, regardless of the effort at intimidating them.
“The Nigerian Public is urged to continue to have faith in the Judiciary of the Nation. Any person with a legitimate complaint against another person, organisation or institution is advised to employ the civilised and legal mode of redress as contained and guaranteed by our Constitution. Whoever is dissatisfied with the outcome of decisions of our Courts of Law has the right of appeal as Constitutionally guaranteed. The Judiciary will never fail in its duties.
“Violence, the type visited on the Judiciary of Rivers State is alien to any civilised society and therefore condemnable.”