Attackers of Port Harcourt court must not go unpunished, CJN warns



Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, warned on Monday that the attackers of the Port Harcourt Division of the Rivers State High Court’s complex last Friday must not be allowed to go unpunished.

Expressing deep worry over the development, Justice Onnoghen said if those he described as “the enemies of our peace and democracy” were allowed to go scot-free, it would motivate them to unleash similar attacks on the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court whenever they were displeased by the court’s decisions.

In a statement issued on his behalf by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Awassam Bassey, the CJN said the Friday’s development was “violence against a peaceful arm of government” and “an act of intimidation of the judiciary”.

He said such show of shame ought not to be encouraged by right thinking members of the Nigerian public.

He said, “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.

“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.”

Violence reportedly erupted on the court premises on Friday when thugs loyal to a faction of the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State invaded the court where a rival faction of the party had filed an application seeking an injunction to restrain the party from holding the local government congress in the state last Saturday.

Giving an account of the attack on Monday, the statement said, “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.”

He noted that the rampaging hoodlums were said to be heavily armed and “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 in respect of the local government congresses of the party in the state,” he added.

Condemning the attack, the CJN feared that what the situation would be in the next year’s general election if violence of the scale that happened in Rivers State could be visited on the court during a ward/local government intra-party primary election.

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