The invasion of the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Ogwashi-Uku in Delta State a few days ago is one more confirmation that security of lives and property has become a very scarce commodity in the country. Ordinarily, a court is supposed to be the temple of justice whose sanctity ought to be protected, seeing that its service is for humanity as a whole and not any individual or group of individuals. “Justice to one is justice to all”, as the saying goes. Justice does not respect titles, gender or status, so it is expected that every human ‘own’ any and all courts.
However, from records, some Nigerian courts seem to have been stripped of the essence given the plethora of attacks on courts across the country over the years. In 2014, the Ekiti State High court was invaded by hoodlums and a judge severely beaten up and litigants and lawyers attacked too. It was after the declaration of the Ekiti State election that brought former Governor Ayodele Fayose to office. In 2016, heavily armed hoodlums invaded three law courts in Makurdi, Benue State, and after vandalising the courts even locked them with their own padlocks.
There were attacks on the courts in Kogi State and two judges were abducted in July. The aforementioned attacks are not however the only ones that have been recorded, but we hasten to add that the judiciary arm of our democracy has always been violated at different levels and it is not good for democracy. As the third tripod of democracy, the sanctity of the judiciary represented by the courts must be upheld by institutions empowered constitutionally to protect them.
It is regrettable that the sanctity of the courts is being violated by hoodlums repeatedly and there seems to be no strict action to rein in the perpetrators. In the case of the Delta State attack, we find it curious that a magistrate’s court would be located in a plaza that houses other ministries and even other corporate bodies. We would have expected that given the sensitivity of the courts and their roles in society, a separate and secure building ought to be allocated by governments to house the different courts in any state. The dispensers of justice ought to be safe and secure as they carry out their constitutional duties.
Adequate security for the courts and the judicial workers is not a luxury. Indeed, we even feel that in Nigeria, both the executive and the legislative arms live in luxury and are well protected by various security agencies while those in the judiciary with an equal relevance to our democracy are left in the lurch. It is regrettable that only the judiciary seems to be under these senseless acts.
To neglect the temple of justice as the country seems to have done is to bury democracy alive. The judicial arm is too important to everyone to be tampered with. Everyone needs the courts as it is said that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. If lawyers and judges feel unsafe to carry out their duties, the executive and legislature alone cannot run democracy.
It is very ironic that politicians often run to the judiciary for intervention pre and post-elections for cases concerning their access to power but are often very fast to forget to care of their (judicial workers’) welfare the moment the same judiciary confers on them the authority through oaths, to perform their own roles.
Protecting the courts and judicial staff must be a priority if our democracy must be viable. There can never be democracy without a truly functional judiciary that feels secure and well taken care of.
Attacks on the courts and judicial workers would continue to affect democracy if not arrested through diligent prosecution of suspects and the law made to take effect as a deterrent.