Authorities in Ekiti State on Thursday ordered the immediate closure of all state courts there after political thugs backing the governor-elect, Ayodele Fayose, descended on a court, attacking a judge and other staff.
The assailants attacked Justice John Adeyeye, beating him up and ripping his clothes for being allegedly rude to Mr. Fayose.
The pandemonium that ensued scuttled the Ekiti State Governorship Election petition Tribunal sitting billed for the day at the High court, Ado-Ekiti, as judicial workers abandoned their duty post and ran for safety, witnesses and the state judiciary authority said.
The state Chief Judge, A. Daramola, ordered all state courts to remain closed until adequate security measures are in place, a statement signed by the Chief Registrar, Obafemi Fasanmi, said.
“The chief judge has noted with increasing concern the spate of attacks perpetrated by political thugs and their persistent presence in the premises of the high court Ado Ekiti in the past few days,” the statement said.
The attack on the court was the second of the week after thugs stormed another court in Ado Ekiti on Monday and attacked the judge, O. Ogunyemi, the statement added.
“The sitting was disrupted and taken over. The judge was ferried to safety by police after he was threatened by the militants,” it said.
The registrar said police officers who were at the court on Thursday did nothing to stop the second attack.
“On Thursday, another set of thugs invaded the premises of a court presided over by J.O Adedeye by beating up and tearing his suit while police on guard looked unconcerned and uninterested as judges, magistrates, and other members of staff had to run for their lives while court properties were damaged.
“The court room of the Hon. Chief Judge was not spared the orgy in the orgy of assault and destruction as members of staff attached to his office were beaten up and his court record book torn into pieces by these political thugs who also invaded and disrupted proceedings at the election petition tribunal within the High Court premises in Ado Ekiti,” the statement said.
Witnesses had earlier told PREMIUM TIMES how pro-Fayose thugs besieged the court premises as early as 6a.m.
Justice Adeyeye of High Court 3, who was miffed by the huge number of the thugs as they surged towards the court premises had approached Mr. Fayose and urged him to prevail on “his supporters” to keep a safe distance from the court premises, the witnesses said.
An enraged Mr. Fayose was said to have shouted the judge down. Immediately, thugs numbering about 20 pounced on Justice Adeyeye, beat him up and tore his clothes, while his co-workers scampered and shouted for help.
Justice Adeyeye was taken away for medical attention at a private hospital in Ado-Ekiti.
Meanwhile, a non –governmental organisation, Society for the Protection of Law and Justice, has described as barbaric Monday’s attack on judges, lawyers and workers at the court.
The group said a situation where judicial workers were assaulted in the courtroom and premises, in the course of their work, “is most condemnable”.
The group in the statement signed by its General Secretary, Peter Adebayo, said a situation where political violence is carried out in a court premises is anarchy at its peak, a development he said constitutes a serious threat to the nascent democracy.
The group called on relevant judicial bodies and security agencies to carry out a thorough investigation into the crisis and ensure that perpetrators are brought to book.
On allegations that some legal practitioners and policemen also aided the attack, the group said such officers should be punished if found to be culpable.
The statement reads in part, “The society condemns in strong terms Monday’s attack on judges, judicial workers and litigants at the High Court, Ado-Ekiti.
“That attack on the temple of justice is hooliganism carried too far. It is an ill wind that will not do anyone any good. And all lovers of peace, democracy and development in the country should rise in unison to condemn this barbaric act.
“Every decent society is governed by rules and laws and the court is to interpret such laws. And there are several provisions in the law to address any seeming case of injustice instead of resorting to self-help.
“We will advise all parties in the case to allow peace reign in the state and present their cases as responsible as possible, just as we warn politicians live by examples.”