Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, on Monday said that the Federal Government is currently tagging opposition members as security risk and seizing their passports.
Wike spoke at the opening of the 61st Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Port Harcourt.
He said, “Never in our political history has Nigeria been so badly governed and denied of good governance with the Federal Government woefully failing in its basic duties to provide for the wellbeing and security of its own citizens as we have experienced in the last six years.
“On a daily basis, the economic, social and political rights, including the rights to personal security, freedom of speech, association, dissent and peaceful protests, as well as the right to personal liberty are being violated with impunity by the present central administration and its security apparatus.
“The invasion on personal liberty has been brazen and indiscriminate, such that even judges of the superior courts, including Supreme Court justices, have in the recent past been victims of midnight assaults on their premises and subjection to unlawful arrests and imprisonments.
“Lately, the new devious trend is to tag security risks to innocent Nigerians and opposition elements and use the Immigration Authority to seize their international passports without a prior court order.”
The governor called on the Supreme Court to give the case of the Value Added Tax (VAT) currently before it an accelerated hearing.
He also faulted the Federal Government’s Executive Order 10, saying there is the need for a judicial interpretation.
He said there was the need to seek judicial interpretation of the Executive Order 10 because, in itself, it is an oppressive erosion of the powers and autonomy of the sub-national governments to administer their own judicial budgets in line with prevailing economic indices.
The governor said, “It is for similar reasons of strengthening fiscal federalism that we are in court to determine the proper authority, under our Constitution for imposing and collecting the Value Added Tax in our country.
“These are very nationally sensitive issues and Nigerians are eagerly waiting for the final outcome of the judicial process.
“We therefore wonder why the Supreme Court is not giving accelerated hearing to these matters and respectfully request that this should be done in the national interest.”
Speaking further, Wike said it was time for all to work collectively towards building a strong legal system that is well-resourced, independent and effective in the administration of justice.
This is as he charged Nigerian lawyers to engage in judicial activism as a measure to address the slow dispensation of justice and attempts to stifle the rights of citizens.
Wike said no excellence can be achieved in the nation’s judicial system when judges lack the courage to enforce the law with equal measure because they are constantly under some form of political intimidation or pressure to please vested interests.
He wondered why the NBA has continued to focus less on promoting and fighting for the values of good governance, democracy, judicial independence, human rights and the rule of law when there is an urgent need for the association to do so.
In his address, before declaring the conference open, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, charged the NBA and its members that serve in various offices in the arms of government to lead the crusade to address the poor condition of service of national judicial officers.
Muhammad, who was represented by a Supreme Court Judge, Justice Mary Odili, observed that administration of justice is being hampered by assault that litigants, especially politicians and some lawyers, launch on the judiciary when their expectations are not met.
He urged the NBA to also take measures to discipline its members who do not only ridicule the judiciary but also abuse its processes.
Justice Muhammad noted that as Nigeria remain faced with the challenges of kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, agitations for secession and resource control, the peace of the country now rests on the balance of the scale of justice. – Punch.