It is probably not a coincidence that as the countdown to the general elections in February and March 2019 begins, there seems an odious uptick in the tendency of undesirable elements to target our courts for violence. The reverence attached to the temple of justice appears to have taken flight.
Only on 11th May this year, the Port Harcourt High Court complex in the Rivers State capital was attacked by a faction of a major political party over issues pending in the courts. In video footages widely broadcast on the social media, armed hoodlums were seen turning the complex into a “war” zone. Many judiciary workers were injured, facilities destroyed and court records vandalised.
Last week Wednesday, 22nd August 2018 witnessed a re-enactment of this sordid drama in Orlu, Imo State, when yet-to-be-identified arsonists wreaked havoc on Senior Magistrate Courts 1 and 2. Court files and records, perhaps the specific targets of the lawbreakers, were also reportedly set ablaze. Only a few weeks ago, some policemen were reported to have assaulted a magistrate at a court in Ngor Okpalla in the same Imo State for allegedly setting free some robbery suspects.
There is hardly any part of the country that has been spared the irreverence of court attacks. Judiciary officers, especially judges, are made to work in a growing atmosphere of fear and apprehension. Court records are also specifically targeted, perhaps with a view to thwarting the course of justice and allowing lawbreakers go free.
Obviously, this trend is increasing because firm examples have not been made of past culprits. In spite of the coup-like atmosphere and the general outrage that followed the Port Harcourt court complex invasion nobody has been apprehended for prosecution. Most assaults on the judiciary perpetrated by, or at the instance of, privileged political interest groups never get seriously tackled to prevent future occurrence.
The tendency by our law enforcement agents to loose-handle these serious crimes against the last hope for the common man simply embolden the anarchists to attack our public institutions and on-duty officials whenever their selfish interests are threatened. This must be stopped forthwith. Otherwise our country will rapidly dissolve into a Hobbesian theatre where might is right and those who control the instruments and forces of violence will overcome our civic culture.
It must be strongly reiterated that the Judiciary, the temple of justice, as the final arbiter between the elective and appointive arms of government, and also the last bastion of the high and low within our nation, must be protected. Court records must be doubly-protected through digitisation.
All of us will seek justice one day. The courts must be safeguarded and fully enabled to dispense it without fear or favour.