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At bar conference, lawyers tasked to rescue Nigeria from bad leaders

By Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt)
02 November 2021   |   3:53 am
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at its 2021 conference, themed: “Taking the Lead”, which started on Monday, October 25 and ended on Friday, October 29, has tasked its members to take up leadership positions to rescue Nigeria...

Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Justice Mary Odili (left); NBA President, Olumide Akpata; Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike; Justice Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom-Wike and Governor of Sokoto State, Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal during the NBA 61st Yearly General Conference in Port Harcourt.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at its 2021 conference, themed: “Taking the Lead”, which started on Monday, October 25 and ended on Friday, October 29, has tasked its members to take up leadership positions to rescue Nigeria from bad leaders and its failing state.
  
Present at the conference were the NBA President, Olumide Akpata; the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Tanko, represented by Justice Mary Odili; Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike; Governor of Sokoto State, Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong; former NBA presidents, Onueze Okocha (SAN) and Okey Wali (SAN) and lawyers from the 36 states of the country.
 
Interactions at the conference revealed that members of the learned profession are tired of the lopsided leadership in Nigeria and are eager to step in and make the difference.

  
Personalities like former NBA president, Okocha, described the conference theme as apt. Speaking during the NBA opening ceremony, its president, Akpata, said, it was time enough for the legal practitioners to rise up and chart the course of leading the country out of its present woes, where the political leaders have refused to allow the systems to grow for the good of the citizens.
  
“The objective of this conference is encapsulated in the theme, ‘Taking the lead,’ which is to serve as a call to action to legal practitioners all over the country, irrespective of their area of practice, to provide this country with effective and quality leadership that has been largely lacking for decades since independence.
  
“If we are to make the desired progress to take Nigeria to the promised land, we must speak truth to power and indeed to ourselves by acknowledging that in terms of the abundant human and natural resources that God has blessed Nigeria with, we have definitely been punching way below our weight category.
  
“For the avoidance of doubt, I request that lawyers should take leadership positions anywhere they find themselves. Who knows, we may find one who leads this country and take us to the Promised Land,” he stated. 
 
The NBA President said, beyond occupying public office, lawyers also have an important role in providing a serious solution of leadership.
   
“At times, when the country is dwindling at the precipice, facing multi-faceted challenges, lawyers must be temperate in their utterances and should not be seen to be fanning the embers of ethnic discord. The society needs us at this time more than ever to provide leadership,” he said, adding that another objective of the conference was to strengthen the working relationship with the components of the legal profession – the Bar and the Bench. 
  
He said his administration is keen to consolidate the relationship and ensure that the Bench and the Bar are both functioning optimally.
  
On his part, Justice Tanko urged Justices and Judges to see the administration of justice as one of the fundamental solutions to some of the nation’s crises.

He also charged lawyers to ensure they speak truth to power, noting that society needs lawyers at this time more than ever to provide leadership.
  
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, who was represented by Justice Mary Odili, expressed sadness at the prevailing crisis facing the country, noting that the teeming populations of the youths who have nothing to fend for themselves have resorted to crime and criminality as means of livelihood.

“A teeming population of our youths who have nothing to fend for themselves has suddenly found the various activities of criminalities such as kidnapping, banditry, and terrorism as their sources and means of livelihood. 
 
“The consequence is that the roads that many have travelled many times in the past few years have become dreadful, even in the day time. Reports of bloodbaths continue to occupy the front pages of our national dailies.
  
“Agitation for secession and resource control have taken a front seat in various national discourse rather than how the nation can collectively face its various challenges as a united front,” he stated. 
  
Justice Tanko, however, urged Judges to own up to the challenge, noting that the peace of the nation rests on the balance of the scale of Justice, stressing that the courts must ensure that justice is served at all times irrespective of the pressure from within.

  
Governor Wike urged Nigerian lawyers to engage in judicial activism as a deliberate measure to address the slow dispensation of justice, and attempts to stifle the rights of citizens.
  
He said no excellence could 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 good governance, democracy, judicial independence, human rights and the rule of law when there is urgent need for them to do so.
  
“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 subjected 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.”
  
Governor Wike said it is not enough for the FG to issue Executive Order 10 and do nothing more pragmatic about resourcing the judiciary to the fullest possible extent, including enhanced judicial welfare and conditions of service.
  
The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukuh, in his keynote address, said it has been difficult to review the nation’s constitution in a manner that meets the current aspirations of Nigerians because of the poor quality of those saddled with such responsibility.
  
According to him, any tenable constitution should be one that provides a mirror for each Nigerians to recognise him or herself as a citizen and not as an instrument that distributes favours to vested interests, sections or tribes.
  
Deputy Senate President, Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege said the National Assembly has taken steps to ensure transparency of elections in Nigeria by giving nod to the electronic transmission of results.
  
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila said the legislature is committed to ensuring that the rule of law thrives in the country.