By Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The presidency has condemned the attempts by a legal practitioner, Mr. Nnamdi Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe, to prejudice public opinion against President Muhammadu Buhari over his alleged lack of certificate by declaring the president guilty on the pages of newspapers.
While reacting to an interview by the lawyer who sued the president, Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe, the media aide to the president, Mr. Garba Shehu, said: “It is unfair for a lawyer who is a litigant to a case in court to go out of his way to hijack the power of a judge by declaring the president guilty of what he is accused of.
According to him, newspaper pages are not alternative courts where a lawyer can declare anybody guilty of anything when the court has not formally given a definitive judgment on an issue before it.
“The two-pages interview splashed on pages 56-57 of the THISDAY edition of Saturday, June 11, 2016 breaches a lawyer’s ethical code and we hope that the court and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) will take notice of this,” he said.
Shehu said any lawyer who sincerely believed in judicial process and the rights of other parties to a case would not have engaged in the inappropriate and unprofessional practice of trial by media, especially a situation where Nwokocha openly declared the president guilty when the court didn’t make that declaration.
He noted that gag orders emerged in the United States on account of lawyers’ inappropriate conduct on trying and convicting people on the pages of newspapers or the court of public opinion.
According to him, free speech is not synonymous with recklessness and wanton abuse of the rights of other parties to a case in court.
He said: “The litigant’s unabashed claim that he was a card-carrying member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which lost power in the last election clearly indicates a scheme that seeks power by circumventing the democratic process of elections.”
Shehu warned that if the lawyer did not stop ‘his unfair and professionally inappropriate abuse of free speech’, the President’s competent team of lawyers would seek the instrumentality of the law in dealing with his unethical actions.
“You cannot be a litigant and be a judge at the same time,” Shehu added.