By Hameed Ajibola Jimoh, Esq.
The Court they say is we lawyers’ “office or farm”. Also, no one would watch his office being destroyed and or disrupted. The current rising, continuous invasion on Nigerian Courts across the Federation (both superior and the inferior courts) has called for us as litigation lawyers or lawyers engaged in core litigation practices to call for security around Nigerian courts and for government to actually find a lasting solution to these ugly incidents. Hence, this paper calls on the government for a more proactive security measures in seizing incidents where our judges, magistrates, lawyers, courts’ staff and litigants as well as witnesses do not feel secure within the precinct of the court of law and where lady justitia holds her sword and scale of justice to then be invaded with no repercussion for the perpetrators.
Incidents of invasion on various courts are rising daily. First of its kind was the destruction of courts and stealing of courts’ facilities perpetrated by some miscreants who lodged their criminal goals under the pretence of #endsars protest where several lives and properties were lost and many citizens and the country are still in excruciating pains. Thereafter, just weeks or days ago, some courts in the South-East of Nigeria were invaded and some burnt down rending those courts not fit for hearing of cases. There and then, recently in Delta State, according to a report, a High Court too was invaded by some suspected thugs (for whatever reason).
Also, a few hours after, there was a report that AK-47 bullet penetrated Umuahia Magistrate Court during session (though no life was lost according to the report). All these cases point to the fact that security around our courts are very weak, hence, the need for the government to assess the security around our courts for the protection of all persons around the courts.
Furthermore, in my humble view, security of lives and properties is not a joke. It must be taken seriously by our Nigerian government. Security is very important in the fulfillment of the roles of the courts of law. Many of our Nigerian courts do not also have at least a police officer not to talk of armed security personnel guarding the premises. To the most unfortunate situation, some of the judicial or sitting judges especially those of the lower courts such as Area Courts’ Judges (Kadis); Customary Courts’ Judges, etc., have no police officer/orderly guarding them. Magistrates in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, for instance, have at least one police officer/orderly attached to them to guard them but Area Courts and Customary Courts that I have seen, do not have any police officer/orderly guarding them. This deficiency in the administration of justice has continued till date.
I am of the humble view and appeal that this trend and or status quo of security in our courts can no more be sustainable having regard to the rising insecurity in Nigeria. Also, if this insecurity challenges that could cause loss of lives and property as well as permanent damage to human body is and or are not remedied, judges and or sitting courts would then be justified to refuse to be called upon to carry out their official duties unless and until their security is guaranteed by the government since the welfare and security of Nigerians are the primary purpose of government by virtue of section 14(2)(c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the government having woefully performed these primary responsibilities.
Furthermore, there are courts that have been established to sit in isolated environments in some parts of Nigeria, especially those lower courts such as Magistrates, Area Courts and Customary Courts. In my humble view, the rising insecurity across the nation would rather no more justify the need to continue in this manner where it is very impossible and impracticable to provide armed security personnel (that are not even enough to tackle security challenges across the nation) to man and or to be stationed around those courts.
Therefore, I humbly recommend and or appeal that all these courts should be moved and or made to be relocated to sit at a complex where armed security personnel can then be provided to secure the entire complex thereby reducing the manpower needed for such security. This stationing of armed security personnel would also boost the morale of those courts to carry out their official duties. Litigants, witnesses, courts’ officials and lawyers too would be encouraged to approach the court of law.
Nevertheless, the presence of these security agents of government must continuously be checked so as not be to the intimidation and threats of innocent and law abiding court users.
Furthermore and finally, I humbly pray My Lords, the Chief Justice of Nigeria as Chairman of the National Judicial Council of Nigeria; My Lords, the Chief Judges of the various Federals’/States’ Courts and Chairmen of Judicial Service Commission/Committee of both the Federal and the States/FCT, Abuja, to liaise with and or make these recommendations being made by this paper to the necessary authorities for immediate effect in order to guarantee security in our Nigerian courts in the interest of promoting justice and ensuring that justice is dispensed in a serene environment without fear of invasion by unknown and or unsuspected gunmen, bandits and or kidnappers. I also call on the Nigerian Bar Association to champion these recommendations.
God bless the Nigerian Judiciary! God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!