THE Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen condemned the last Friday attack on the Port Harcourt High Court complex by hoodlums.
“This latest act of intimidation of the judiciary and the unwarranted violence against a peaceful institution of an Arm of Government is quite disturbing”, the CJN stated in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Awassam Bassey made available to newsmen on Monday.
According to Justice Onnoghen, the attack by the hoodlums 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.
“Violence, the type visited on the Judiciary of Rivers State is alien to any civilized society and therefore condemnable”, he said and added that such show of shame ought not to be encouraged by right-thinking members of the Nigerian Public.
The CJN said, “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.
He called on Judges and Judicial Officers to remain true to their Oath of Office, remain focused, resolute, and courageous, regardless of the effort at intimidating them.
Onnoghen urged the public to continue to have faith in the Judiciary of the Nation and that, any person with a legitimate complaint against another person, organisation or institution is advised to employ the civilized and legal mode of redress as contained and guaranteed by our Constitution.
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“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”, Onnoghen added and noted with grave concern that this magnitude of violence could be visited on the Judiciary during a Ward/Local Government intra-party primary election, and wonders what the situation would be during the forthcoming general elections in 2019.
The Chief Justice, however, commended security agencies for bringing the chaos under control, thereby allowing the Judge to go ahead and deliver the ruling on the matter, but warned that attacks on the Judiciary is a disaster that would end democracy in Nigeria as parties would resort to self-help in the absence of the Judiciary or confidence in the Judiciary as an arbiter.
The CJN then reiterated the commitment of the Judiciary to an expeditious hearing of all political matters to avoid escalating political tension in the nation and advised Judicial Officers to go about their lawful duties without fear or favour.
Recalled that the 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 and were denied access to the Complex as all the gates were padlocked and the buildings surrounded by hoodlums.
The hoodlums, who were said to be heavily armed, reportedly inflicted bodily harm to Judicial Officers and other staff of the Judiciary and destroyed some properties belonging to the Judiciary.
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