The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to take a disciplinary action against its agents who invaded the house of a Court of Appeal judge, Ita Mbaba, in the wee hours of Wednesday in Kano, Kano State.
NBA President, Yakubu Maikyau, in a statement on Wednesday, also called on the commission to issue a public apology to Mr Mbaba who is the presiding justice of the Kano Division of the Court of Appeal.
It comes hours after EFCC admitted in a statement on Wednesday that its agents visited the property housing Mr Mbaba’s residence in Kano, but that the judge was not their target.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that the commission said its agents’ visit was for a verification exercise concerning the property.
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It said Mr Mbaba had no link to the ownership of the property, therefore, could not have been the subject of its investigations.
The property, according to EFCC, is located on Sheik Yusuf Adam Game street, off Race Cross Road, Nasarawa Government Reservation Area, Kano.
The commission added that the property came under EFCC’s searchlight “owing to a subsisting matter involving the owner of the property”.
But reacting, Mr Maikyau described the incident as “unfortunate”, adding that he had called the EFCC chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, to express NBA’s concern about it.
He said the timing of the intrusion, which according to him, took place at about 5 a.m. on Wednesday, and the manner of the “property verification exercise” EFCC claimed its agents had gone there to carry out “leaves much to be desired, to say the least.”
He added that the anti-graft agency’s statement “fell short of rendering an apology to His Lordship and the Judiciary for the invasion of His Lordship’s privacy and the resultant embarrassment by the actions of its operatives.”
“Such verification could have been done without armed operatives, at a more appropriate time of the day and through a civil process. We are a Country of laws and regulations, and we must show regard for the Rule of Law and due process.
“I therefore call on the EFCC to not only take appropriate disciplinary actions against the concerned officers, but also issue a public apology to His Lordship, the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Kano Division, and the entire judiciary.
“The NBA will monitor the observance of these demands, ” the statement added.
EFCC’s statement had issued its statement to deny investigating Mr Mbaba.
There had been media reports that the judge was under investigation following the invasion of his house by EFCC agents.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that Nigeria has recent history of raids on judges’ homes by law enforcement agents, although the EFCC has never been involved until the latest one.
It started when operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) invaded the houses of some judges, including two Justices of the Supreme Court, in Abuja and other parts of the country in 2016.
Not long after that, security agencies including EFCC began putting judges on trial over corruption allegations.
In a fashion similar to SSS’ invasion of some judges’ homes in 2016, some security operatives laid a siege to the home of a Justice of the Supreme Court, Mary Odili, the wife of a former Governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili, at Imo Street, Maitama, Abuja, on 29 October 2021.
Mrs Odili retired as a justice of the Supreme in May this year.
The raid on her official residence was led by Lawrence Adjodo, who claimed to be a police officer with a search warrant to be executed on the house.
A magistrate in Abuja who issued the warrant would later withraw it. He said he was misled to issue it.
Along with other security agencies and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, EFCC had denied knowledge of the raid.
EFCC insisted its operatives did not participate in the raid.
Read NBA’s statement in full:
21st September, 2022
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION, Y.C. MAIKYAU, SAN, ON THE INTRUSION OF THE RESIDENCE OF HIS LORDSHIP, THE PRESIDING JUSTICE OF THE COURT OF APPEAL, KANO DIVISION BY AGENTS OF THE ECONONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION (EFCC) ON WEDNESDAY 21ST SEPTEMBER, 2022
I have been following the unfortunate event of the intrusion of the residence of the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Kano Division, at about 5am this morning, by armed officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
I have personally spoken with His Lordship and I was quite relieved to know that His Lordship is fine and calm. I contacted the Kano Branch Chairman of the NBA, who together with the Attorneys General of Kano and Jigawa States, engaged the officials of the EFCC on the matter. A few hours later, I again spoke with His Lordship the Presiding Justice, who confirmed that the Chairman of the EFCC had called to explain the conduct of the officials and apologize for the ensuing embarrassment.
I have also seen the ‘Press Statement’ of the EFCC and called the Chairman of the Commission to express the concerns of the NBA over the incident. He explained the circumstances surrounding the incident and also confirmed that he reached out to His Lordship. The EFCC in its statement admitted that its operatives were on a “Property Verification Exercise” and stated that His Lordship is “not under any investigation by the Commission”. The statement however fell short of rendering an apology to His Lordship and the Judiciary for the invasion of His Lordship’s privacy and the resultant embarrassment by the actions of its operatives.
The NBA strongly condemns the intrusion of the residence of His Lordship; it is unwarranted and completely unacceptable. Whilst we do not in any way, oppose and will not stand in the way of the EFCC or any other law enforcement agency in the discharge of its statutory duties, the NBA will lawfully resist any attempt to harass, intimidate or in any way bully our Judges and Justices.
The timing and manner of the “Property Verification Exercise” leaves much to be desired, to say the least. Such verification could have been done without armed operatives, at a more appropriate time of the day and through a civil process. We are a Country of laws and regulations, and we must show regard for the Rule of Law and due process.
I therefore call on the EFCC to not only take appropriate disciplinary actions against the concerned officers, but also issue a public apology to His Lordship, the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Kano Division and the entire judiciary. The NBA will monitor the observance of these demands.
I thank His Lordship, the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chairman of the EFCC, Attorneys General of Kano and Jigawa States, the Chairman and executive members of Kano Branch of the NBA, other stakeholders and the public for their concern and prompt interventions, following the incident.
The NBA will not shirk in its responsibility to protect and defend the Rule of Law as well as the integrity and independence of the Judiciary.
Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau
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