Dr. Peter Odili
*…as court vacates search warrant
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA
An Abuja Chief Magistrate’s Court sitting at Wuse Zone 6, has accused the Federal Government of misleading it to issue a search warrant against a Justice of the Supreme Court, Mary Odili.
Justice Odili is currently the second most senior jurist of the apex court, after the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad.
Her home in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, situated at 9, Imo Street, Maitama, was on Friday, besieged by security operatives who claimed their action was based on a valid court order.
However, few hours after the order was issued, the Chief Magistrate Court, revoked it on the ground that it was deceived by the Joint Panel Recovery unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The revocation order came at a point Vanguard learned that the CJN, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, who was said to have been perturbed by the development, ordered the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to query the Magistrate.
“The CJN was very upset when he heard that the home of Justice Odili was besieged by security agencies.
“His anger further heightened when he learned that action of the security agencies was based on order from a Magistrate Court in Abuja.
“Honourable Justice Muhammad is a man that takes the welfare of not just justices of the Supreme Court, but every judicial officer in the country very serious.
“You will recall that he seriously condemned the action of the Department of State Services, DSS, when its operatives invaded homes of judges in 2016,” a top source at the Supreme Court told Vanguard.
I was deceived— Magistrate
Meanwhile, Magistrate Emmanuel Iyanna, who granted the order for Justice Odili’s Abuja home to be searched, said he was deceived to do so through misrepresentation of facts by two affidavits that were deposed to by a self-acclaimed whistleblower, Aliyu Umar and a senior Police Officer, CSP Lawrence Ajodo.
Consequently, Magistrate Iyanna, revoked the search warrant he issued against Justice Odili on Friday.
The revocation order read: “Upon misrepresentation to this honourable court that led to the issuance of a search warrant in favour of Joint Panel Recovery, Ministry of Justice, against House 9, Imo Street, Maitama, Abuja, dated October 29, 2021.
“In view of the above fact, the said search warrant is hereby revoked.”
The whistleblower, Umar, had claimed that he observed some illegally activities going on at Justice Odili’s residence in Abuja.
In an affidavit he deposed to on October 13, Umar averred: “I have observed some illegal activities going on in those houses within Abuja that are illegal and hereby report the said matter to the law enforcement agency.
“I, hereby, state that all information provided by me to the EFCC is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.”
Based on the affidavit, CSP Ajodo, acting on behalf of the panel which comprises the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Nigeria Police Force and the Ministry of Justice, also deposed to an affidavit, wherein he applied for a warrant to be issued for Justice Odili’s house to be searched.
Justice Odili, who is the wife of a former Governor of Rivers State, was said to have resisted attempts by the security agents to invade her house.
EFCC scrambles denial
In the midst of the stand-off that lasted about five hours, the EFCC, through its spokesman, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, quickly distanced itself from the operation.
The anti-graft agency said it had no hand in the matter and advised members of the public to disregard any news to the contrary.
It said: “The attention the EFCC has been drawn to claims in a section of the media that operatives of the commission today (yesterday) stormed the Maitama, Abuja home of a Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Mary Odili, purportedly to execute a search.
“The commission, by this statement, wishes to inform the public that the report is false as it did not carry out any operation at the home of Justice Odili.
“If there was any such operation as claimed by the media, it was not carried out by the EFCC.
“The commission enjoins the public to discountenance the report.”
The Dr. Peter Odili
It will be recalled that the Federal High Court in Abuja had on October 18, ordered the immediate release of the international passport of Justice Odili’s husband, which was seized by the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS.
The court, in a judgement that was delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, held that there was no legal justification for the action the NIS took against the former governor, Dr. Peter Odili.
Justice Ekwo said there was no evidence to establish that Odili’s passport was seized on the order of any court of competent jurisdiction.
He therefore ordered the NIS to immediately release and return the seized passport, as well as tender an apology to the Applicant.
Odili, who piloted affairs of Rivers State from 1999 to 2007, had approached the court to challenge the seizure of his international passport by the NIS.
He told the court that his passport with numbers B50031305, was seized from him on June 20 by NIS officials for undisclosed reason, shortly after he landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
In an 8-paragraph affidavit he personally deposed to, the former governor, said he landed at the airport from the United Kingdom where he had gone for his routine medical checkup.
He averred that upon his arrival, his traveling documents were checked and given back to him, but while he waited for his luggage to be cleared, an Immigration official approached him and demanded for the passport on claim of routing check.
Odili told the court that he complied and handed his documents over to the official who went away with and failed to return it back.
However, the NIS, in processes it filed before the court, maintained that its action was based on a directive from the EFCC.
It will be recalled that a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had in 2007, issued an order of perpetual injunction that barred the EFCC and other security agencies in the country from arresting or investigating the former governor.
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