OrderPaperToday– The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed concern over recent harassment and attacks on judicial officers who are exercising their legitimate and constitutional functions.

The commission said it undermines judicial independence when judges are attacked by bandits and hoodlums across the country for exercising their legitimate duties.

Executive secretary of the NHRC, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, in a press statement issued over the weekend, noted “Nigeria’s democracy and the enjoyment of the human rights, especially the rights to life, freedom from fear of personal security, dignity of human persons, privacy and ownership of property as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the judiciary.”

Going further, he said “The rule of law and the realisation of human rights can only be attained when judges and our courts are able to dispense justice without any inclination to fear, bias and intimidation.

“This situation is further accentuated by the increasing lack of safety for Nigerians while pursing their legitimate duties or businesses due to acts of hoodlums, criminal minded elements, banditry, kidnapping, insurgency and others thereby undermining human security to abysmal levels.

“Judicial independence is greatly undermined when judges are no longer able to exercise their functions without fear of reprisals, kidnappings, reprimand or attack on their persons, immediate family and property.”

The NHRC boss cited the recent attacks on the person and private property of Honourable Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court, kidnapping of Justice Ijeoma Iheme of the Court of Appeal, Benin Division and other judicial officers, adding that it is worse where such attacks on judicial officials result from performance of official duties following the delivery of judgements in election related cases.

“We acknowledge the right of every Nigerian to fair comment on judgements of courts, freedom of expression and to hold and impart opinions as guaranteed by the Constitution. However, the enjoyment of these rights does not extend to, or encourage violent acts, invasion of privacy and destruction of private properties which also violate the human rights of others and are crimes against the state.

“Consequently, the National Human Rights Commission wishes to appeal to all political actors and their supporters to:
a. Respect the human rights of citizens to express fair comments on the judgements of courts without personalising any issues arising therefrom or infringing on the rights of others.
b. Observe and respect the human rights of judicial officers in the exercise of their lawful duties. This extends to their personal and official properties and privacy.
c. Respect the right of other Nigerians who hold divergent political or legal opinions as the basis for a free, just and democratic society,” Ojukwu stated.

The commission’s boss called on security agencies to ensure the rights and security of Nigerians and especially judicial officers performing their official duties are protected and those responsible for the attack on Justice Mary Odili’s home, as well as other judicial officers who have suffered similar attacks, brought to book in accordance with the law.

It would be recalled that following a Supreme Court judgment that nullified the All progressives Congress’ victory in the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State, the home of Justice Mary Odili of the same court was attacked by protesters who were displeased by the pronouncement.

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