- Says 2019 marred by executive misbehaviour, high handedness
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) wednesday called on Nigerians to continue to demand their rights as enshrined in the constitution, even as it promised to continue to speak and demand respect for rule of law.
The President of the association, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), in a goodwill message to celebrate the New Year, described 2019 as a year the federal government persistently assaulted rule of law through “executive misbehavior and high handedness.”
NBA noted that the federal government cannot have a country where peace and justice reign if it keeps paying lip service to the rule of law.
NBA stated that the country’s diversity ought to be Nigeria’s strength if only politicians and leaders would rise above parochial and selfish interests and resolve to weld the people together as a united and indissoluble country where peace and justice can and will perpetually reign.
The association which described 2019 as one of the worst in human rights violation since the enthronement of democracy in 1999, recalled how the federal government early last year removed the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, through what it called a ‘nebulous and reprehensible” ex-parte orders of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), which is gradually becoming the norm in the country.
It said the assaults on the judiciary only eroded the rule of law and diminished the country in the comity of nations but endangered democracy and economic growth.
The association said in 2020 it would continue to speak for Nigerians and persist in holding governments to account, especially in the promotion and protection of the rule of law and the delivery of democracy dividends to the people.
The statement read: “2020 provides us the opportunity to reposition ourselves for the greater good of our people and our beloved country. On a positive note, we have sustained our democracy, imperfect as it may be, and remained a united country albeit of diverse nationalities, religion, tongues and tribes.
“Our diversity, in truth, ought to be our strength if only our politicians and leaders will rise above parochial and selfish interests and resolve to weld us together as a united and indissoluble country where peace and justice can and will perpetually reign.
“As the NBA consistently points out, we cannot have a country where peace and justice reign if we keep paying lip service to the rule of law.
“In 2019, rule of law in Nigeria was persistently assaulted and lay prostrate, thanks mostly to executive misbehaviours and high-handedness. 2019 marked the year that removal of public officers through nebulous and reprehensible ex-parte orders of the CCT gradually became the norm in our national life.
“It started with the removal of erstwhile Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, through a purported CCT ex-parte order in the first quarter of 2019 and, towards the end of the year, this abnormality was repeated with the removal from office of the Acting Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Lady Azuka Azinge, through a questionable ex-parte order
“This is one “innovation” in our national life that does not bode well for the security of tenure of our public officers. Economic growth can only be attained in an atmosphere of predictability and certainty.
“This new practice of tripping and removing our public officers through contrived CCT ex-parte orders corrodes confidence in the system. It not only assaults our collective sensibilities when CCT ex-parte orders are used to ease out public officers but erodes due process, a fundamental plank of the rule of law.
“This is as disingenuous as the other unacceptable practice of tarring public officers to provide purported justification for their removal. That practice has been extended to private sector professionals, including legal practitioners with potentially deleterious impact on wealth-creation capabilities.
“2019 was the year that our courtroom was invaded by officials of the Department of State Security (DSS) in an attempt to re-arrest a defendant who had been granted bail by the court and was released by the department only the previous day.
“This was a horrifying assault on the rule of law and the sacred sanctum of our courts and judicial processes. “It is somewhat reassuring that in the dying days of 2019 and at the instance of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, both Omoyele Sowore and Sambo Dasuki were finally released from confinement by the DSS, after being detained for prolonged periods against the orders of courts.
“It is our hope that, in 2020, we would build on this new resolve by government and ensure that court orders are obeyed across board by our state officials and agencies.
“In 2020, these dividends of democracy must be made manifest to our people. Our lives and circumstances must improve in 2020 in all respects. We must demonstrate to the world that 60 years of self-governance has been fruitful and have not been wasted. We must make 2020 the year that we join the league of developed economies and showcase our maturity as a 60-year old nation.”