Wednesday, 3 June, 2020

WE WILL BOYCOTT COURTS SOON IF…, WARNS USORO

  • PUBLIC PROTEST: FALANA STORMS ABA

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN has warned that lawyers may soon embark on a boycott of the courts if judges of the Court of Appeal and Nasarawa Area Court are not freed by their kidnappers.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of this year’s Annual Conference of the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) also tagged “revival” conference, Usoro said lawyers would soon have no option than to shun the courts to press their demand for release of the judicial officers.

His words: “We are the ones to speak for the judiciary; they do not have a voice. It behoves us (NBA) to speak on their behalf. A couple of them very very sadly have been kidnapped in recent days. You wouldn’t see any press release from the judiciary because they do not have a voice.

“It is we – the Nigerian Bar Association – that will fight for them, which will tell the authority that they have to take certain steps. If it gets to the extreme and – as we did not too long ago – we decide that we are going to boycott the courts to make a point, that is what we lawyers are for. If we are not united it becomes difficult for us to achieve. That is something I would like all of us to bear in mind.”

He noted that globally, lawyers are “recognized as the voice of the voiceless,” adding that “If you do not defend them, nobody will.”

It is recalled that Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme of the Benin Division of Court of Appeal and Honorable Likita Ewa, a judge of an Area Court in Nasarawa State were kidnapped recently and are still in the kidnappers’ den.

Usoro urged members of the Aba Branch of the NBA to close ranks and resolve the crises rocking the branch, noting that “This is very important as without being united, it is very easy for people to further divide us. Our strength lies in our unity.”

Commending the SPIDEL leadership and the Abia State Government for its “magnanimity,” the NBA President also thanked the judiciary for attending the event in large numbers “particularly in these dangerous times when simply being seen with lawyers could be misconstrued.” He prayed God to give them the “wisdom to dispense justice without fear or favour.”

In his keynote address, Attorney General & Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN commended the NBA for using the law “as an instrument of social change.”

Saying that SPIDEL is facilitating its core objective of promoting public interest by organizing the conference, Malami who was represented by Mr. Aikomo Abiodun, his Special Assistant on Anti-corruption & Contracts Implementation, also commended SPIDEL Chairman, Dr. Paul Ananaba SAN and his team for hosting the highly successful conference.

On his part, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Tony Ojukwu noted that “Our being human would be incomplete without enjoying these rights,” pointing at banditry, communal clashes, insurgency, kidnapping, farmers/herders crises, weak electoral system, unemployment, decayed infrastructure, poverty, and violation of rights by state actors as some of the factors that threaten enjoyment of human rights.

Represented by Mr. Olaniyi Omodara, the NHRC chieftain described the theme of the conference as “well thought out,” adding that the NBA and especially SPIDEL “is an important partner” in the commission’s quest to reform the regime of rights available to Nigerians.

The opening ceremony was followed by two technical sessions. The session on “Public interest lawyering: Global best practices and development” was chaired by Abia State Chief Judge, Justice Onuoha Ogwe. Leading human rights strategist, Dr. Sam Amadi was the lead speaker.

The session on “Executive orders as tools of governance – Prospects and challenges” drew the curtains on the day’s events. While the sessionwas chaired by Mr. Israel Usman, the lead speaker was Dr. Chukwudi Odoeme, Head of Legal Unit, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC). The panelists included former NBA General Secretary, Mr. Emeka Obegolu; former NBA Treasurer Joyce Oduah; former member of NBA Criminal Justice Reform Committee, Mr. Emeka Nwadioke and senior lawyer Udochi Iheanacho.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

MR. ABUBAKAR ALIYU
Director General, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria

We have tried as much as possible to collaborate and cooperate with NBA especially SPIDEL to promote human rights. There is nothing more important than assisting indigent Nigerian to gain access to justice.

The kind of pleasure I derive from obtaining ordinary bail for somebody who has stayed five years in prison awaiting trial is indescribable. I commend SPIDEL for the work it is doing. I am always participating in SPIDEL activities, and will continue to collaborate with SPIDEL.

OLUMUYIWA AKINBORO SAN
Former NBA General Secretary

This is one of the best and most packed conferences I have ever attended. There are benefits that come by virtue of pro bono work. If one is to wait for that juicy brief, one may wait for a long time. However, by going to court and representing indigent clients, a lawyer may gain more experience and confidence. Everyday we go to court, we get better.

There is nothing that gives more satisfaction than helping another person. It is recalled that the Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN and Mr. Femi Falana SAN became very popular through their public interest litigation work. You invariably end up being celebrated. I want to encourage us to take up the challenge of lawyering in the public interest.

DR. PAUL ANANABA SAN
SPIDEL Chairman

Nigeria is at a transformational stage; only public interest and pro people policies as well as development law initiatives is needed to provide credible and enabling environment for sustainable results. This need and service to the people are what SPIDEL stands for; NBA’s link and commitment to the rule of law and justice.

Through interactions on these issues at this conference, SPIDEL will be strengthened and positioned to lead NBA’s mandate as the watcher of government’s policies, governance framework, citizenship issues and so on. SPIDEL is ready to give urgency to activities that will reverse governance, administrative and legal failure to alleviate the suffering of the maases.

MR. IKEAZOR AKARAIWE
Chairman, Conference Planning Committee

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Public Interest and Development Law is arguably the most important section of the NBA, the other sections being Section on Legal Practice and Section on Business Law. SPIDEL proposes a regime of public interest and development awareness. Public interest and development advocacy and litigation is why Nigeria escaped the long night of military dictatorship. This conference of SPIDEL is coming at a time when democratic fascism is on the rise and corruption has rendered development all but comatose.

The gains of this conference must be that every lawyer realizes that our priesthood in the temple of justice of necessity clothes us with the toga of development warriors. We must use the courts and responsible social media usage to advance the interest of the public and development in Nigeria. We can do no less.

The conference continues today with several technical sessions including the eagerly anticipated session on public protest law which has firebrand social crusader, Mr. Femi Falana SAN as the lead speaker.

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