NBA to President: Rule of Law Central to Democracy

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) friday condemned President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement on the rule of law, stating that the the rule of law is central to a democracy and “any national security concerns by the government must be managed within the perimeters and parameters of the rule of law.”

Also, the NBA has expressed concern over Buhari’s refusal to assent to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), describing the action as a major setback in the efforts to sanitise the Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.

Buhari had while declaring open the 58 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Sunday in Abuja, posited that, “the rule of law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest.”The president had also insisted that, “where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of society”.

But the NBA in a communiqué read by its immediate past President, Abubakar Mahmoud, said the conference was in total disagreement with Buhari on his position on the rule of law.

Mahmoud said: “The Conference completely rejects the presidential statement subordinating the rule of law to national security.”

The NBA also expressed its disapproval of a lot of issues in the polity including disobedience to court orders and the new Executive Order by the Buhari administration.

Mahmoud added: “Conference frowns on the present growing trend whereby government decides on which court orders to obey. The court has exclusive duty under a democratic dispensation to interpret the Constitution and other laws, and government and the citizenry must comply with court orders at all times until set aside.

“Conference emphatically objects to the issuance of Executive Orders in respect to matters already in court and observes that any such order is a breach of the principle of separation of powers; and counsels that Executive Orders be issued for good governance and to manage operations of government, and not to encroach or usurp upon the constitutional powers of other arms of government, lest Executive Orders become attempts at decree-making”.

The Conference also condemned the rejection of the PIGB by the federal government and called for an urgent review of the decision. It pointed out that the president’s refusal to assent to the bill after nearly two decades its consideration was a major setback in the efforts to sanitise the oil and gas industry.

It added: “In this regard, the Conference particularly recommends clear regulatory policies, enforced by a single holistic regulator, to increase our refining capacity and adopt global best practices as a means of attracting investment to this industry.”

The Conference also called for support for indigenous petroleum producers who must be encouraged to meet with local consumption especially in an era where gas required for the power sector is still being flared.
It also recommended that the local content policy in the petroleum industry should be used for supporting these indigenous petroleum producers to ease their financing needs.

While the Conference called for a budgetary arrangement that would allow for funds to be directly allocated to the judiciary at both federal and state levels to enhance the independence of the judiciary, the NBA, welcomed the ongoing reforms in the Justice Sector, which it believed will improve access to justice by the citizenry.

In recognition of the role character plays in the building of strong institutions, the NBA urged government and civil society to invest in the rebirth, through ethical, moral and value reorientation, of a new type of citizen.
“Conference calls for the institutionalisation of higher standards for transformational leadership and in this regard; calls for new laws to set higher standards of academic qualifications for political office holders in Nigeria.”

The NBA further urged the government and the political class to ensure that the 2019 general elections are not only free and fair but devoid of violence.

On the war against corruption, the NBA reiterated its support for the war against corruption, but stated that “the war must be across board and not be selective”.

Meanwhile, shortly after reading the communiqué as well as his valedictory speech, Mahmoud administered the oath of office on his successor, Paul Usoro SAN as the 29th President of the NBA.

Usoro, defeated two other aspirants at the recent NBA elections to emerge President.
The new NBA President however promised to work with all including those who lost to him, nothing that his victory at the polls was that of the entire bar.

He also vowed to embark on various reforms including electoral and constitutional that would reposition the bar to function optimally.

Usoro also promised to work hard to correct the misconception about judges and lawyers in the fight against corruption, warning that the NBA would henceforth not take lightly the issue of assault and battery particularly against lawyers by security agents.

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