By Nsa Gill, Calabar
The Cross River State Judiciary is counting its losses following the violence unleashed by hoodlums who, last week, hijacked the anti-police brutality protests in the state.
Mobs in Calabar, under the guise of the #EndSARS protests, overran and looted government and private-owned property, like they did in a majority of states across the country.
The state’s acting Chief Judge, Justice Eyo Effiom Ita, expressed shock at the level of damage on properties, vehicles and documents at the State High Court in Calabar.
Ita, who noted that the carnage occurred just about four days after he was sworn-in, spoke during a tour of the Judiciary complex alongside leaders of the Calabar Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association.
He said: “Everybody above 50 years should apologise to the youths because when I was in school it wasn’t like this. How can somebody go to school and after 10years he cannot find a job? Anybody will feel bad, I hope we learn the lesson that this is showing us because it didn’t happen for nothing and we hope that we don’t allow it to continue.
“The initial protest was right. It is for us to look into those things that are getting the youths angry and correct those things; otherwise I don’t know how it will end. Because it was assumed that Nigerian youths are lazy, they’ve shown us that they are not lazy; so, it for us to learn our lessons”.
“A lot has been destroyed. Almost all the air-conditioners have been damaged, we cannot quantify the damage because we don’t know for now whether case files and exhibits have been lost and those are the ones we will not be able to replace. Loss to a court is just like losing history because the courts are repository of our history. So, when you lose your history, you are lost. I hope we didn’t lose files”.
The Acting Chief Judge pledged to make the changes necessary to prevent such occurrence in future and also leave a mark in his three-month tenure.
He said: “I have three months from 19th October to do all the changes that I can do. It is not a period to promise to build a skyscraper but I promise to right as many wrongs that I can during my tenure. If I do that, I must have contributed and those who come after follow those things which I will setup, it will help a lot”.
He reasoned that the incident will no doubt “affect the Judiciary,” but that “even in time of war, people still try to live, so tomorrow we will start work and I will sit at my court tomorrow by 9am. We have lost a lot but we cannot fold our hands and sleep, we have to push on until we arrive where we should be, so let all hands be on deck”.
Also speaking after the inspection of the damages, NBA Calabar Branch Chairman, Dr Paul Ebiala, condemned the attack on the Judiciary complex.
Although he noted that the “ugly incident will not stop lawyers from defending any of the looters in court if need be,” Ebiala appealed to youths to desist from crime.
He said: “We are all very sad, we are affected as lawyers because this is our farm. Our leaders must take this message very serious. The sad part of it, which we will continue to condemn in totality, is the criminality that has gone with the protest. The protest was normal, even lawyers were part of the protest to say #EndSars, #EndPoliceBrutality, but when it comes to an extent where they destroyed and looted properties and people’s businesses, it’s bad.
“So please we want to appeal to the youths to desist from crime let’s see how we can repair the damage that was done. A lawyer is meant to defend everybody who is accused of an offense, unless you have your personal interest or religious grounds, apart from that a lawyer does is to ensure that proper law is applied”.
Ebiala maintained that the good intentions of the #EndSars protesters are still valid and “I’m sure that’s why the government is working on those demands by protesters. This is just a spot on a white garment, it shouldn’t take away the essence of the protest”.
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