Shortly before the court adjourned sitting till Friday this week, Ken Mozia, senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, counsel to the second respondent, (Godwin Obaseki) had raised a red flag on the security of counsel and pleaded for the tribunal’s directives on the matter. Mozia, who posited that it was not right for counsel to be made to feel unsafe either while coming to the tribunal or while leaving, complained of harassment last Friday by some political thugs as he made to exit the court premises. Narrating his experience, Mozia said the hoodlums “almost smashed the windscreen of my car; it was substantially dented because when they saw me coming, they said ah, that is Obaseki’s lawyer. I was isolated and they were banging on the car, calling me all kinds of things and I felt very, very unsafe. As a matter of fact, my driver had to push some of those people. There was a gentleman with a hand-held public address system and he called them and they cut me off. When they were trying to smash the window of my car, I had to tell him (the driver) that the situation was becoming very dangerous and we had to exit”.
Chairman of the Edo State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Benin, the state capital, Ahmed Badamasi has called on the state commissioner of police, Haliru Gwandu, to beef up security within and outside the court premises where the tribunal is hearing the petition of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Osagie Osagie Ize-Iyamu, its candidate in the September 28, 2016, governorship election, against the victory of Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the contentious election. Badamasi said the safety of lawyers and all others in the court, was paramount, stressing that “it is not good for a man to come to the court and he is molested and intimidated by anybody”. He also called on all politicians to exercise restraint and keep the peace within themselves. “Peace is very material, very fundamental to the existence of any society. Without peace, nothing will happen. So, I call on the politicians to please allow peace to reign in the tribunal, and outside the tribunal”, Badamasi stated
Mozia urged the chairman to call the politicians in the court to order and leave the lawyers alone, “because they (political thugs) don’t come unless they are mobilized”, adding that any time counsel comes to court, they become unnecessarily apprehensive. “I don’t think it is right sir, and I don’t think we should be put in a situation where we make our own arrangement for security; we can do that and if anybody does that again, there will be very serious consequences. But I don’t think it needs to be that way sir”, Mozia stated. While positing that it was not a crime to represent any of the respondents, Mozia expressed concern over a situation whereby his family members and others were apprehensive about his safety.
Reacting swiftly, counsel to the petitioners, Adebayo Adelodun, SAN, while agreeing with Mozia about what happened, was quick to mention that it was not peculiar to the respondents alone. According to him, “this thing knows no colour because those of us here on this side too, especially the day that your Lordships granted an order of the court, we were almost mobbed. They were banging our cars and doing every kind of thing. My Lord, this is what happens; we just didn’t know that we had to bring it here”. Adelodun said, “but now that they have brought it, I join him in praying your Lordship to appeal to the public to keep the peace”. According to him, “we are lawyers, we do not belong to any side; we are here to do our job and it is better that we feel safe when we are doing our job. I just want to make this point that it is all over”.
Also lending his voice, Ricky Tarfa, SAN, counsel to the All Progressives Congress, APC, noted that security issue was a very serious issue, not just for lawyers but also members of the public. He said if measures were not taken, “we don’t know where it will lead to”. He said the matter should be brought to the notice of the state police commissioner “because it has serious security implication”.