To outlive in Nigeria’s authorized occupation today, practitioners and judges require expertise within the martial arts; nimbleness of ft on an Olympian scale; weapons dealing with; to not point out superior coaching in subterfuge. Sadly, these will not be provided on the curriculum of the Nigerian Regulation Faculty nor in judicial orientation. Even with these expertise bolstered by a wing and a prayer, being related with the enterprise of the authorized course of in Nigeria at present is usually life endangering.
In August 2015, Nigeria’s State Safety Service introduced that they’d arrested members of a kidnapping syndicate who had been about to abduct judges sitting on election petitions in Owerri, capital of Imo state. They named the chief of that syndicate as one Chibueze Henry, who glided by the operational alias, Vampire. Prices adopted towards Vampire and his gang whose trial started in Owerri, the next 12 months.
Now, the Excessive Courtroom in Owerri occupies a distinguished piece of actual property, a shouting distance between the workplace of the State Governor and the headquarters of the Imo State Police Command. Entrance into the premises is managed by gates, managed by safety people who find themselves public officers. In one of many court docket halls on this premises, the trial of Vampire and his gang was scheduled to proceed on the morning of 27 January 2017.
As officers of the Nigeria Jail Service (because it was then known as) drove into the court docket premises, a black Sports activities Utility Automobile behind the convoy, sped previous them, stopping out of the blue. A horde of males armed with assault rifles jumped down from the SUV and began taking pictures indiscriminately. As judges, court docket personnel, legal professionals, and court docket customers scampered, the attackers liberated Vampire who fled together with as much as 29 different detainees. The assault killed a minimum of two individuals, leaving many others injured.
Imo State, the place this incident occurred, had been a website of focused violence towards judges and legal professionals for over a decade. In March 2011, excessive court docket judges within the state launched into a strike to protest the kidnapping of 1 their colleagues, Theophilus Nzekwe. He was not the primary.
One 12 months earlier, the judge-president of the state’s Customary Courtroom of Attraction, Ambrose Egu; and senior Justice of the Peace, Pauline Njemanze, had been kidnapped close to the Sam Mbakwe Worldwide Cargo Airport close to Owerri on official duties.
In 2009, Florence Duroha-Igwe, one other decide of the Imo State Excessive Courtroom, suffered an assault by which each her driver and police orderly sustained extreme gunshot accidents.
Emboldened by the absence of accountability, these assaults would develop in each frequency and brazenness. In October 2019, a senior Justice of Attraction from the state, Chioma Nwosu-Iheme, was kidnapped in Benin Metropolis, whereas on responsibility presiding over election disputes. She spent a fortnight in captivity.
In September 2021, former Chief Decide of Abia State, Nnenna Oti, was kidnapped in Orlu, Imo State. Seven months earlier, the Presiding Justice of Attraction in Owerri, Rita Pemu, navigated the perils of abduction and doable assassination with an additional provide of native wiles.
Justice of the Peace and court docket inspector, Oderachukwu Onumajulu, was not so fortunate. As a toddler, Odera all the time desired to be a decide. In 2016, she climbed the primary rung in her ambition when she was admitted to the Nigerian Bar. Three years later, she turned a Justice of the Peace in Imo State. On 22 Might 2021, unidentified males shot and kidnapped Odera on the Customary Courtroom of Attraction in Owerri, the place she labored as court docket inspector. One month later, in June 2022, she died from her accidents.
Odera was the second judicial determine to be killed within the line of responsibility within the state in as a few years. On 23 November, 2018, a physique discovered dumped alongside Amucha Highway in Njaba Native Authorities Space in Orlu Zone, Imo State, was recognized because the stays of Remi Ogu, a Chief Justice of the Peace within the neighbouring Oru LGA. Remi and his court docket registrar, Uju Nwanne, had been kidnapped yesterday from their responsibility put up. In March 2019, the police within the state paraded one Friday Nnaekezie, who claimed that he masterminded the kidnapping and killing of the Chief Justice of the Peace.
Orlu zone, the place Remi was killed, has develop into the epicentre of mass atrocities dedicated within the title of agitation. Three months earlier than Remi’s homicide, in August 2018, unidentified males incinerated the Excessive Courtroom and Justice of the Peace’s court docket buildings within the metropolis with all their data and archives. 4 years later, on 17 December 2022, they returned to complete the job.
One of many extra vocal voices on the Bar in Orlu was Darlington Odume, who turned a lawyer in 2016. The neighborhood admired him for his preventing qualities, evaluating him to the lion. So, they known as him “Omekagu”. In mid-September 2021, whereas out procuring groceries for his family in Orlu, unidentified gunmen assassinated Omekagu. He was married to a policewoman in a location the place it had develop into harmful to be related to one.
2021 was a very unhealthy 12 months for legal professionals across the nation. The month after Omekagu’s homicide in Orlu, Ajah Ogbonna Ajah and one other of his colleagues, each legal professionals, had been killed on the highway by unidentified gunmen whereas on their technique to court docket in Abakaliki, the capital of Ebonyi State in south-east Nigeria.
They had been under no circumstances the one victims within the area or within the 12 months. In Might, former Excessive Courtroom decide, Stanley Nnaji, died, assassinated by unknown individuals on the streets of Enugu State.
In November 2021, seven unidentified males macheted to demise Kenechukwu Okeke, in Nkpor, in Anambra State. They killed him within the presence of his spouse and younger daughter. Okeke, a lawyer, had been outspoken in his help of Nigeria’s ban on Twitter.
These killings of legal professionals, magistrates, and judges weren’t restricted to South-East Nigeria. On 17 February 2021, gunmen shot and killed Nkiru Agbasu, a pregnant lawyer, alongside the Warri-Sapele Highway in Delta State.
As in Imo State, Nkiru died in a state with a document of no penalties for the killing of legal professionals. In March 2014, unidentified gunmen reportedly wearing police uniforms assassinated two legal professionals, Eguno Dafiaghor and Samuel Ekuwangi on the Azoro-Asaba motorway in Delta State. It was extensively suspected that they “had been murdered because of the excessive profile case they had been dealing with on the Excessive Courtroom, Ozoro.”
Slightly over one 12 months later, in April 2015, unidentified males executed the chair of the Nigerian Bar Affiliation in Ughelli, Austin Icheghe, in his residence in entrance of his household and with out penalties.
Impunity additionally explains insecurity amongst legal professionals in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital. In October 2013, the police discovered the mutilated stays of Ijeoma Micah in her regulation workplace in upmarket Maitama, in Abuja. She had been lacking for 3 days.
Seven years later, Ben Okpe, one other lawyer, was killed close to his house in Karu, close to Abuja. In March, 2022, terrorists who hijacked the Abuja-Kaduna practice, killed Farida Sule Mohammed, a younger Abuja lawyer. She was 29. Suleiman Zailani, was killed in August; Sadiq Gaya in September. On the finish of November, unidentified gunmen within the Federal Capital assassinated senior lawyer, Steven Eke, within the presence of his spouse and son.
Feyitayo Obot was killed in her lodge room when she travelled to Lagos on skilled enterprise on the finish of January 2019; practically two months after the killing of Adeshina Adeola, who was killed on the outskirts of Abuja within the week of his admission to Nigerian Bar in November 2018.
The killings and abductions of legal professionals and judges recounted listed here are solely a fraction of the story. Three issues are clear about them. First, the perpetrators practically all the time get away with it. Second, any society that tolerates these sorts of assaults on its courts, judges, and legal professionals is lawless. Third, the NBA doesn’t but have a targeted program for making certain accountability for these assaults on legal professionals and judges. That’s the very first thing that should change.
A lawyer and a trainer, Odinkalu might be reached at [email protected]