Wike Berates NBA for Not Defending Rule of Law

Blessing Ibunge

The Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, has criticised the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for not protecting the rule of law and the judiciary from alleged punitive intimidation and erosion of its independence by the federal government.

Governor Wike was worried that the President of the NBA, Mr. Olumide Akpata, has failed to admit that the NBA, including the inner and outer Bar, have failed in their responsibility to protect the rule of law from abuses.

He made these remarks at a book launch in honour of Hon. Justice Mary Peter-Odili on her retirement in response to some statements credited to Chief Wole Olanipekun, (SAN), the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, (SAN), and the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Akpata, regarding the depressing state of the judiciary in Nigeria.

The governor recalled that while speaking for the Body of Senior Advocates during the valedictory Court Session in honour of Justice Mary Odili, Olanipekun identified corruption as the bane of the Nigerian judiciary and allegedly pointed fingers of responsibility at politicians, lawyers and the federal government.

He noted that as the third arm of government, the judiciary is required to be independent and never to be bound howsoever to any person or authority other than the constitution in the discharge of its functions of adjudication and delivery of justice.

He stressed that judicial officers are mandated to uphold the rule of law, protect fundamental rights and dispense justice to all persons without fear or favour, ill-will or affection, added that democratic nation craved for an independent and effective judiciary to advance the rule of law as an integral part of good governance. 

Wike regretted that “it is quite unfortunate that the NBA is only good at issuing bland statements of condemnation without more, while the judiciary continues to suffer ferocious bouts of harassment from a federal government that has become notorious for its contemptuous attitude towards the rule of law and the rights of Nigerians to an effective justice system.

“Lest we forget, in 2016, when the federal government unleash premeditated midnight raids on  judges’ homes, including the Justices of the Supreme Court,  in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Gombe, Kano, Enugu and Sokoto States the NBA only issued the usual tepid statements without any strong protest action.

“In 2018 when the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Onnenghen, was harassed and prematurely hounded from office through a kangaroo tribunal order, the NBA maintained a studied silence.

“Again, in 2020, when the sanctity of Justice Mary Odili’s home was violated by hired members of the APC over the Supreme Court’s judgment that sacked the party’s governorship candidate for Bayelsa State, the NBA just condemned it, without any further follow-up action to forestall a reoccurrence. 

“All across the world, activist-oriented and responsible lawyers’ bodies, such as the Pakistan Lawyers Association, are doing great things with courage and determination to defend the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary through active and radical engagement with the retrograde political powers that try to undermine democracy and good governance.

“Ours should not be different. The NBA’s lacklustre approach to social change is more of a disservice to the nation and exposes it to contempt as a lawyers’ body that stands for nothing noble. It must take a cue from the activist posture of the Pakistan Lawyers Association and get transformed into a formidably united social force for justice and the rule of law for it to be taking seriously as relevant element in the Nigerian legal profession.”

However, on behalf of Rivers State Government and Mr. Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Mr. Samuel Ortom (Benue), Mr. Douye Diri (Bayelsa), others, Governor Wike launched the book at the sum of N200million.

He, therefore, congratulated Justice Mary Odili, (rtd) for her rare achievements and recommended the book for all to take and keep as a collector’s item.

In her appreciation remarks, the retired Supreme Court Judge, Justice Mary Odili, noted that the Nigerian judges have not been fairly treated.

She said: “I have not delivered any judgment and not gone to sleep peacefully.

“Life is not something that is in the hand of any man or woman but God, so we should be careful of what we do because the owner of the life may call at any time.”  

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