1. The utterly reprehensible kidnap of Honorable Justice Chioma Iheme-Nwosu, PhD, Justice of the Court of Appeal, and the gruesome murder of His Lordship’s orderly should not only unnerve and agitate all of us but must also jolt our collective conscience. Iheme-Nwosu JCA’s car was intercepted and disabled, Rambo-style, by dare-devil criminals who executed her orderly with the proficiency of marksmen right in the heart of Benin City and then abducted His Lordship, all in broad daylight at about 11.30am. As we write, His Lordship’s whereabout and safety remain unknown and of grave concern to all well-meaning persons.
2. This kidnap incident is one too many and utterly condemnable by everyone for and from multiple fronts. First, it truly should be a taboo for criminals to breach and tamper with the safety of judges generally. We made this point in the Nigerian Bar Association’s (“NBA”) Release following the recent kidnap of Honorable Justice Abdu Dogo of the Federal High Court. Given the sensitive nature of judges’ assignments, it behooves on us to make criminal attacks on them most unprofitable for the criminals lest justice becomes imperiled and shackled. This point assumes greater importance in this season when Justices of the Court of Appeal are crisscrossing the Nigerian nation to sit on and dispense justice in election petition matters.
3. The Court of Appeal as most would know is the court of last resort for all House of Assembly and National Assembly election matters and we have plenty of these at this time. Given the sensitive nature of those petitions, these Court of Appeal panels are mostly constituted and made up of Justices who are deployed outside of their normal duty stations. Some of the venues for these Court of Appeal Tribunals are in cities that are inaccessible by air or not easily accessible by air which means our Justices are left with no option but to travel to these locations by road. And, in that process, Their Lordships are exposed to great harm and danger in the hands of underworld men and women.
Couple that with the fact that Iheme-Nwosu JCA was criminally assaulted and kidnapped right in the city where she works and in broad daylight and the conclusion and prospects become inescapable, to wit, that justice and indeed, our democracy is potentially shackled and totally imperiled by the criminal men and women in our midst.
4. Beyond the safety of judges generally, we cannot but wonder what type of bestial and evil people would descend on a woman and a Justice, with such violence and inhumanness, as was meted out to Iheme-Nwosu JCA?
Have we become so completely immoral and gone so low in our cultural esteem that criminals have no respect whatsoever and howsoever for womanhood? In every culture in our Nigerian society, womanhood is held as sacred and not to be despoiled or attacked. That is why violence against women and rape – which used to be primarily targeted at women – were and are still considered so very reprehensible and low. That is why, even in war situations, the safety of women and children are always considered paramount. It cuts us to the marrow that the criminals in our midst have not only desecrated the temple of justice continually but have now defiled womanhood – the very symbol and nurturers of life, the hands that rock the cradle – with the abduction of Iheme-Nwosu, JCA.
5. The NBA not only condemns in the strongest terms the horrifying and criminal abduction of Honorable Justice Chioma Iheme-Nwosu, PhD, Justice of the Court of Appeal, but calls more importantly for her immediate release and safe return to all of us. The law enforcement agencies owe their assassinated colleague, Iheme-Nwosu, JCA’s orderly the debt and responsibility of fishing out and meting justice to the criminals who so brutally and heinously murdered him and abducted His Lordship. This crime must not end up as part of our crime statistics. We owe ourselves the responsibility of stopping these criminals now. They must not go unpunished. We must start our redemption by ensuring the safe return of Iheme-Nwosu, JCA. Nothing must happen to His Lordship and her abductors must not escape justice.
Paul Usoro, SAN