The Chief Judge of Ekiti State, Justice Ayodeji Daramola, has spoken on how thugs molested judges in the state and identified thugs loyal to the Governor-elect, Ayo Fayose, as those who perpetrated the assault on judges.
He alleged that Fayose specifically led an army of thugs who attacked the High Court on September 25, while expressing regrets that policemen and security agents watched helplessly as judges were beaten up by the thugs.
He said he had no choice than to close the court in the light of the “prevailing lawlessness” in the state.
Justice Daramola, who is scheduled to appear before the National Judicial Council (NJC) tomorrow, said the errant thugs beat judges and workers “black and blue”.
Fayose has denied that his supporters beat up Justice John Adeyeye and described the allegation as not only unfounded, but spurious.
“I am not aware that a judge was beaten up. In fact, this is strange to me. This is reckless and strange to me. I visited the election petition tribunal as a party to the case and I was the only one that was allowed passage by security men. To the best of my knowledge, the three judges handling the tribunal case sat.
“How can I order the people to beat up a judge that has nothing to do with me? At what point was this judge beaten? Was he a member of the tribunal? Because I went to the tribunal and not the regular court.”
The Chief Judge chronicled the travails of the judges in two letters to the Commissioner of Police in Ekiti State, Taiwo Lakanu, and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mariam Alooma Mukhtar.
The letters gave rare insights into the mayhem in Ekiti which forced Governor Kayode Fayemi to declare a 12-hour curfew.
The CJ’s letter to the Commissioner of Police, dated September 26, 2014, reads in part: “ I write the letter to appraise you formally, the sad events of this week at the premises of the High Court of Ekiti State even though I have earlier before now stated this verbally through frantic and distress phone calls.
“May I therefore chronicle the said sad event as hereunder stated please:
“On Monday 22nd of September while I was attending the Supreme Court Special Sitting in Abuja, I was called on phone that thugs loyal to Mr. Ayodele Fayose have invaded the headquarters of the Judiciary of Ekiti State where Hon. Justice I.O. Ogunyemi was to deliver a ruling on the matter instituted against him.
“The thugs beat workers black and blue while the presiding Judge and lawyers had to run for dear lives. They smashed windows and furniture.
“Meanwhile, the policemen and other law enforcement agents deployed within and without the premises in large numbers were looking on completely uninterested and unconcerned while these thugs were on prowl beating and maiming workers and court users.
“The thugs went on searching for the Judge who ran into hiding. It took your personal intervention when you were duly informed on phone to rush to the scene of the mayhem within the court premises to rescue the said Judge and took him out into safety.”
The Chief Judge insisted that the attacks on judges were pre-planned by the said hoodlums, 13 of which the police alleged it had arrested.
The letter further said: “The above in the main was just the beginning of what would appear to be a pre-planned long siege and onslaughts on the Court and its personnel.
“The political hoodlums showed again in large numbers on Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th of September, 2014 on the spurious ground that they came to listen to the ruling which they did not allow the presiding Judge in Court No. 6 to deliver on Monday 22nd day of September, 2014. No such ruling was slated for hearing since the thugs invaded the premises of the court on Monday before.
“Now on Thursday the 25th day of September, Ayodele Fayose, the Governor-elect again led thousands of people and thugs into the premises of the High Court beating and maiming the staff.
“The thugs invaded my court where I was to deliver a judgment in a land matter, tore the Record Books, beat the court officials and vandalized the furniture in Court No. 1.
“The political thugs descended on Hon. Justice J. A. Adeyeye the presiding Judge in Court No. 3 beat and dragged him on the ground. The Judge’s suit was also torn into shreds. I could not gain entrance into the premises of the court and had to hurriedly turn back on being alerted that I was the prime target of the hooligans.”
The Chief Judge narrated how policemen and security agents refused to come to the rescue of the assaulted judges, court workers and users.
The letter added: “It is needless to reiterate here that while the mayhem and attack on judges, staff and property of the Court was in progress, scores of policemen and State Security Service (SSS) operatives posted to protect lives and property within the Court premises looked on and watched without taking any step to save the situation.
All entreaties to officers and men of Ekiti State Command to protect the Court as an important institution of State yielded no positive response.
“I should put it on record here again that it took your personal intervention to rush to the Court premises to rescue Members of the Election Tribunal who started sitting within the Court premises on this particular day and escorted them out of the premises into safety when your men and officers would not lift a finger to help us.
“I write this letter to formally inform you that your officers and men posted to guard and protect the integrity of the Court and its personnel in the face of looming danger within the premises of the High Court of Ekiti State have failed us and left us at the mercy of political hoodlums.
“In the premises of the prevailing lawlessness in and around the court premises, I have no other alternative than to direct a closure of the court until the safety of Judges, Magistrates and Staff of Ekiti State Judiciary can be guaranteed by the law enforcement agents. Please accept the assurances of my kindest regards.”
In forwarding a similar letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mariam Alooma Mukhtar, the Ekiti Chief Judge on September 27, 2014 said: “Further to my letter dated 25th day of September 2014, I hereby forward to your Lordship my letter to the Commissioner of Police, Ekiti State Command the situation report on events of the preceding week at the premises of the High Court of Ekiti State. With kindest regards to your Lordship.”