THE increasing hazard that officers of the Bench – judges and magistrates – face in our country reared its ugly head again over the past week when the residence of a Lokoja-based High Court Judge, Justice Yunusa Musa, was reportedly invaded and ransacked by the Police in a manner that defied logic and lawful objective.
According to Musa, his home with members of his family present, was invaded by a team of officers led by a Deputy Commissioner of Police with the Kogi State Police Command, DCP, Polycarp Dibia, without a search warrant or indication of any offence he or any member of his family might have committed.
Rather, the search was conducted over an issue connected with the Judge’s security guard, if a letter that DCP Dibia sent to Justice Musa was anything to go by.
This incident might appear as a minor, isolated one, but taking into account similar “sting operations” conducted in the homes of judges in October 2016 by security operatives at the behest of the Presidency, to apprehend alleged stolen funds, we have reasons to be worried. That a senior police officer could take such a daring measure over an offence allegedly committed by the judge’s security guard is an act of impunity that must be investigated and properly sorted out to prevent a future occurrence.
Even if the Judge had offended the law there are laid-down processes of bringing erring judicial officers to book. We do not believe that any police or security officer has the right to search any citizen’s house (let alone that of a minister in the temple of justice) without a valid search warrant from a court of competent jurisdiction.
Unless we commit ourselves to this due process of the law, it means that any policeman or security officer can unilaterally barge into the home of any citizen, ransack it and probably plant incriminating evidence or objects with a view to perpetrating injustice or derailing the course of justice.
We need to give special care to the protection of the persons and homes of judicial officers rather than give them the impression they are under siege.
The Judiciary remains the last hope of all citizens high or low. Former rulers and occupants of high political and financial offices have often found themselves in positions where they looked for justice from unbiased judges.
Only a free judiciary will be able to give justice to all irrespective of their current positions in the rungs of power. Our constant emphasis on the need to promote a free and independent Judiciary is based on our firm belief that it will promote our freedoms, reduce impunity and enhance our democratic aspirations.
Once more, this invasion should be probed.