The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said the rule of law was often assaulted by the Federal Government through its misconduct and high-handedness in 2019.
In its New Year’s Day message by its President, Paul Usoro (SAN), the NBA demanded strict adherence to the rule of law in 2020.
Usoro said, “In 2020, the Nigerian Bar Association will continue to speak for Nigerians.
“We will persist in holding governments to account, particularly as it relates to the promotion and protection of the rule of law and the delivery of democracy dividends to our people.”
He said paying lip service to the rule of law would not bring about peace and justice in the country.
He condemned getting public officers suspended via an ex parte order by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Usoro recalled it was first used against the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, in January 2019, and was again used in December of the same year against the acting Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Azuka Azinge.
The NBA chief described the development as reprehensible and an assault on collective sensibilities.
The statement stated, “As the NBA consistently points out, we cannot have a country where peace and justice reigns if we keep paying lip service to the rule of law.
“In 2019, the rule of law in Nigeria was persistently assaulted, thanks mostly to executive misbehaviour and high-handedness.
“2019 marked the year that the removal of public officers through nebulous and reprehensible ex parte orders of the Code of Conduct Tribunal gradually became the norm in our national life.
“It started with the removal of 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.”
The association also recalled the incident of the invasion of the Federal High Court in Abuja by the Department of State Services to arrest Omoyele Sowore.
Usoro said it “was a horrifying assault on the rule of law and the sacred sanctum of our courts and judicial processes”.
He said, “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 state officials and agencies.”
Usoro however noted that it was “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.”
He also noted that judicial officers and courts “continued to be disparaged, blackmailed and intimidated by State officials” in 2019.
“We demand that officials of state imbibe international best practices and join the NBA in protecting and promoting the rule of law through, amongst others, the preservation, fostering and protection of the independence of our judiciary, judicial officers and the independence of the legal profession,” Usoro said.
He also called on Nigerians must always remind their leaders of the electoral pledges and demand their rights.
Usoro stated, “We must remind our leaders of the pledges that they made when they courted us in 2019 for our votes.
“We must demand those rights that are guaranteed to us in our Constitution and in the social contract with elected officials.”
Noting that Nigeria would clock 60 as an independent state in 2020, he urged Nigerians and their leaders to “take stock, tell ourselves the truth, acknowledge our errors and misdirection even as we applaud the positives.”