Appeal Court Judge's home raided by armed EFCC agents
Yesterday, armed officers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) invaded the Kano residence of Justice Ita Mbaba, Presiding Judge of the Kano Court of Appeal. The alarming, unexpected raid took place at 5:00 am in the hours of darkness.
Justice Mbaba was one of three judges who heard our appeal against the decision to retry Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, who had been given a death sentence by a Shariah Court on blasphemy charges. More details here. Our appeal was rejected by a majority decision. Justice Mbaba delivered the dissenting judgment, arguing that Sharif-Aminu should be freed.
Armed dawn raids may be the appropriate way to deal with drug dealers and armed robbers, but such a frightening forced entrance cannot be justified on the residence of an appeal court judge.
In a statement, Wilson Uwujaren, Head of Media and Publicity for the Commission, admitted the raid took place but said Justice Mbaba was not the target. Uwujaren claimed the raid was concerned with a “property verification exercise”, and since Mbaba is not the owner of the house, it did not concern him. Except, of course, it did. Mbaba lived at the property located in the Nassarawa Government Reservation Area, he was awoken by the commotion, and he witnessed armed men forcing their way into the house.
The EFCC statement beggars belief. Are armed dawn raids standard procedure for property verification in that organisation? Can they show us the clauses in their Operations and Procedures Manual that sanctions this aggressive style of investigation? Have property verification exercises ever before been conducted by armed dawn raids?
EFCC chairman Abdulrasheed Bawa, later called Justice Mbiba to “apologise for any embarrassment caused”.
One thing is certain, such raids can intimidate their victims and make them wonder if their lives are safe. What the real reason for this raid was, we do not know. But we cannot help wondering if it was connected with Mbaba’s dissenting Judgement in Sharif-Aminu’s appeal. We may never know, but we salute Justice Mbaba for his integrity and courage in delivering a dissenting Judgment in a blasphemy case.
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Yakubu Maikyau, issued a statement after the incident condemning the raid and calling for the operatives involved to face disciplinary action.
We agree. Nigeria needs a strong and independent judiciary that is not subject to harassment and intimidation.