Many lawyers today descended on Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Yakubu Maikyau SAN over his position on the scuffle between operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) and Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS).

In a show of shame that has shocked the entire nation, DSS operatives were seen in viral videos manhandling an operative of NCoS over who should take custody of suspended Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele following his arraignment in court yesterday.

In a statement on the matter, Maikyau had described the fracas as “despicable,” adding that “While it is difficult not to hold the leadership of the two federal government agencies directly responsible for the shameful and disgraceful conduct of its personnel, one cannot discount the possible overzealousness or excesses of the officers involved, as being responsible for what we witnessed today.”

But many lawyers disagreed sharply with Maikyau, saying he did not specifically condemn DSS operatives for desecration of the court premises and disobedience of a subsisting court order.

CITY LAWYER recalls that Maikyau had also ran into hot water over his pass mark to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its conduct of the 2023 General Elections. Though the elections were widely condemned by many foreign and local observers, Maikyau gave INEC high marks, with many lawyers noting that his position contrasted sharply with that of the official NBA Election Observers.

Opening the floodgate of criticisms against the latest NBA statement, former National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu described it as “shameful,” saying: “Of all the things that played out in that court in Abuja yesterday, all that @NigBarAssoc president, @YCMaikyauSAN, cld see was #TwoFighting? It is a classic case of majoring in the minor. NBA seems clearly uncomfortable with addressing the central issue in this matter. Shameful!”

Former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Mutalubi Adebayo Ojo SAN said in a statement made available to CITY LAWYER: “The NBA President’s statement on the show of shame between the officers DSS and the Correctional Centre is to say the least too weak and a distraction from the main issue.”

Hinting that Maikyau’s statement was evasive and did not pointedly condemn the infraction by DSS, Ojo said: “The greatest misconduct is the crass and flagrant disobedience of the order of the federal high court by DSS. The presiding judge gave a clear order that the defendant should be remanded in prison custody pending the perfection of his bail. That order is very positive and very direct enough, yet the NBA President was silent on its breach in his statement but rather chose to concentrate on the behaviours of the unruly officers within the court premises. This is not good enough if one must put it mildly.”

Another member of the Inner Bar, Mr. Shaibu Enejoh Aruwa SAN lampooned the NBA statement, saying that it “failed to reflect” what actually transpired between the security operatives.

According to a statement obtained by CITY LAWYER, the senior lawyer said: “What happened clearly was an attack brazenly carried out by men of the DSS on an officer of the NCoS; the NBA statement should have reflected what it is and not an altercation or a clash.”

Dwelling on the characterization by DSS of fiery human rights activist, Mr. Maxwell Opara as an “IPOB and Charge and Bail Lawyer,” which many lawyers noted was not addressed by the NBA leadership, the senior lawyer said: “Like most members of the NBA, I waited in vain for the response of the NBA in protection of its member who has come under attack by the DSS in the course of rendering his professional services.”

Frontline human rights activist, Mr. Inibehe Effiong was equally unsparing, describing Maikyau’s statement as an “unfortunate prevarication.”

His words: “The NBA President says it is difficult not to hold the leadership of the two agencies directly responsible for the show of shame at the Federal High Court in Lagos? This implies that he has doubt whether the leadership of the two agencies are complicit or not.

“He could have simply said that the NBA is holding the DG of SSS directly responsible. No need for this unfortunate prevarication. Is Mr President saying that the officers of the lawless SSS acted without being specifically instructed by their superiors? That is not possible. The Correctional Officers are the victims here. To demonize them for seeking to enforce a court order is uncharitable.

“The NBA President did not address the valid order made by the trial judge remanding Emefiele in the custody of the Correctional Service. That is the main issue. Disobedience to court order by the SSS should not be reduced to a case of two fighting.

“This statement by the NBA President is quite disappointing to say the least.”

Aligning with Maikyau’s critics, immediate past Chairman of the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL), Dr. Monday Ubani warned that the NBA does not need to “patronize” the DSS “as they are hell bent in destroying the rule of law and by extension our had won democracy.”

Though he commended Maikyau for the “promptness” with which he issued the statement, the leading human rights advocate said in statement made available to CITY LAWYER: “It is obvious that our judiciary and its powers are being undermined by such lawless and senseless display of power by the officers of DSS. The legal profession cannot afford to be silent when everything about it is being threatened or destroyed.

“The truth is that the order of the court was explicit on who should take custody of the Defendant, in this case Mr Emefiele, former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria. It is appalling that DSS that had him for over a month was eager to take him back into custody despite the express order of the court. What more offence/s are they desiring to investigate which they could not do for over one month they had him in their custody? Were they not the ones that came up with the miserable charge of illegal possession of firearms after the long detention? Who actually should be blamed in the circumstance, DSS or Correctional Centre?

“If we take into account that before yesterday there had been several court orders that directed the release or arraignment of Mr Emefiele which were observed in breach by DSS, we cannot but lay appropriate blame on the doorstep of the culprit, which is DSS.

“The attitude and exercise of power by DSS under this new dispensation needs to be interrogated. Their penchant and impunity in disobeying court orders needs the bold condemnation of the Nigerian Bar Association. We do not need to patronise them as they are hell bent in destroying the rule of law and by extension our had won democracy.

“I believe that President Tinubu’s government owe Nigerians the onerous responsibility to tow the line of rule of law and obedience to court orders under his government.

“If he chooses to go the way of other regimes in Nigeria, let him be rest assured that patriotic minded Nigerians will resist him and his autocratic regime. The citizens have suffered enough and are ready to take their destinies in their hands. A word is enough.”

Following the flurry of criticisms, the immediate past Publicity Secretary of NBA-SPIDEL, Mr. Godfrey Echeho however came to Maikyau’s defence, saying that “in these days of social media news, you certainly do not know what information was at the President’s disposal. I humbly suggest you avail him with any reliable information you have to assist him. It is important now than ever for the Bar to speak with one voice.”

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