Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Augustine Alegeh (SAN), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that his anti-corruption war is fought within the ambit of the law.
A level spoke yesterday at the opening ceremony of the 56th annual general conference of the association in Port Harcourt
He condemned the increasing spate of arbitrary judgements being churned out by the judiciary in recent times.
Alegeh also chided the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for having 136 inconclusive elections across the country within the last one year.
Speaking on issues affecting national growth and development, the NBA president said the theme of the conference, “Democracy and Economic Development”, was chosen in recognition of the socio-economic challenges facing the country.
He noted that out of 36 states, 28 were having difficulties paying salaries, while pensioners were owed pension arrears, even as the national fortunes were declining with the increasing drop in the price of crude oil.
“It is time to interrogate the problems. If our fortunes continue to decline, can we afford to continue to remain as a nation? We need to look at the problems and proffer solutions.
“Panels were set up to look at the problems from several perspectives, including diversification and sharing the little that we have. Are we sharing it correctly? Is the amorphous centre taking too much to the detriment of the federation states? Is the 13 per cent Derivation too much or too little?
“The time has come when we can no longer sweep under the carpet the challenges us as a nation. As an association in a country grounded by corruption, we cannot but talk about corruption and examine if the government of today is able to make the change.
“We must examine whether the President Buhai administration is moving forward or stagnating in the war against corruption”, he said.
Restating the commitment of the NBA to zero tolerance against corruption, Alegeh admonished that “the war against corruption should be fought, must be fought and can be fought within the ambit of the law.
“Any attempt to shortcut the law in fighting corruption is corruption in itself. If the fight against corruption was to stifle political enemies; if the fight against corruption is to take back what was fraudulently stolen to give to another person, then count NBA out of the fight,” he said.
Taking a swipe at the judiciary, the NBA president described as unfortunate the spate of judgments which he said were avoidable.
“We call on the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Chief Justice of the Federation to look into this matter as quickly as possible. It is a shame, an embarrassment. It diminishes us a lawyers in this country”, he said.
The NBA president did not spared the human rights groups in the country as he said some government bodies were eager to take over the functions of other bodies when sector was suffering.
“The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in your focus on human rights, you have failed to identify and to deal with the abuse of human rights. It will be a tragedy in the country for the NHRC to take over the functions of the other agencies,” he said.
The NBA president also condemned the failure of the present leadership of the INEC for failing to hold conclusive elections, adding “elections can be easily conducted, like the NBA had done. It is a shame to 136 inconclusive elections in the country within one year”, he said.
Also speaking, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State said education was the key focus of his administration, adding that the core objective was turn around the fortunes of the youths in the state and get them better educated.
He also announced that his administration had made a policy pronouncement to stop street begging in the whole of the state, adding that stipends were being provided to ease the pains of the excruciating poverty facing the people.
The governor also made it known that his administration was not owing pensioners, adding that the people of the state should expect bumper harvest this year as he had made subsidised agricultural inputs available to farmers.
In his address, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, tasked the NBA to rise up to the task of defending the nation’s democracy.
He said the association, as a critical stakeholder, was, in the past, at the forefront of the democratic struggle but regretted that it had not been active in that cause in recent years, adding that the attempt at democratic growth was been threatened by some impurities.