Gentlemen prior to my election as the Chairman of NBA-SPIDEL, I was appointed as the Chairman of Conference Planning Committee of the Section which took place at Ibadan, Oyo State. The Conference with a theme of “The Role of Public Interest in Governance in Nigeria” was held from 23rd of May to 26th of May, 2021. There were several sub- themes all meant to address Nigeria’s governance issues and enhancing the skill of public interest lawyers on public interest lawyering. The speakers were notable public officers like the Chief Justice of Nigeria ably represented by Justice Eko Ejembi now Retired. We had two serving Governors, Their Exellencies Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and Bala Mohammed of Bauchi and one former Governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha. We had over 50 internationally acclaimed speakers and the conference was regarded as A class conference.

In an election that year which had the current Chairman as the Electoral Committee Chairman, a new Council emerged headed by my humbleself!

As a brand new Chairman with new Council Members of the Section we had a plan to take the annual conference then to Sokoto since the last conference was in South West of Nigeria. The Sokoto State Government and the lawyers of Sokoto were upbeat about the conference. We were already finalising plans for the conference when news broke out about the unfortunate murder of Lady Deborah Yakubu, a female Student of Shehu Shagari College of Education. The innocent lady was beaten and stoned before she was set ablaze by irate mob comprising of her male colleagues of the said college.

Her killing sparked outrage and condemnation across the country, Nigerians asking the government to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous crime.

NBA became deeply worried not just by the chilling news of the murder of Miss Deborah Yakubu, but also by the sudden and sad news of some Youths who took to the streets creating more tense situation by burning and causing chaos thereby leading to deteriorating security situation in the State.

In the light of the above, the NBA-SPIDEL Council came to a painful decision to request from the then President, Mr. Olumide Akpata that the 2022 annual conference in Sokoto State be postponed not only for the safety of our conferees and guests but as a mark of respect for the memory of the slain Miss Deborah Yakubu. This request was swiftly acceded to by the President and the conference was subsequently postponed indefinitely with a demand that the persons who committed this heinous act be fished out and punished accordingly.

It is sad to report that up till now neither the Federal Government nor the State Government has arrested the real culprits let alone prosecuting them. The blood of Deborah is in the grave but crying for vengeance.

Later in the year 2022, August to be precise, the NBA-SPIDEL Council rescheduled the Annual Conference to hold in Abuja with a theme “The Undermining of Judicial Authority in Nigeria” The key note address was delivered by Hon Justice Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

The A list speakers included the then Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria ably represented by Hon Justice Uwani Abba Aji of the Supreme Court, The President of National Industrial Court, Hon Justice Benedict Kanyip, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, Mr Femi Falana SAN, The former AGs of Lagos and Abia States, our Dr Tony Ojukwu SAN, Chief Kanu Agabi SAN, Dr Muiz Banire SAN, Mr Babatunde Ogala SAN, Dr Sam Amadi, Dr Uju Agomoh, Prof Paul Ananaba SAN etc.

Several sub-themes all bothering on the problems of the Judiciary were dissected and solutions profered as remedies to the ills plaguing the judiciary generally.

Just like the Ibadan Conference, the Abuja Conference ended with a communique that was widely publicised in both print and electronic media.

The last conference under my administration was just the recently concluded annual conference held in Lagos State, the centre of excellence. The highly discounted and grand annual conference held in Ikeja Lagos State attracted the creme la creme in the political circle and legal profession. The Conference held from 20th of June to 23rd of June, 2023 was with a theme ” Post Election Nigeria: The Judiciary in the eye of the Storm”

The choice of the topic was deliberate in the light of the present mood of our dear country, post national elections. As we are public interest Advocates, our duty is to constantly remind the judiciary of the daunting task ahead and the need for them to ensure substantial justice and to help set the tone as watchdogs of Justice delivery.

Femi Falana was the Keynote Speaker. Others were Hon Justice Amina Augie ably represented by Hon Justice Ipaye, Prof Ojukwu SAN, Tony Ojukwu SAN, Boma Ozobia SAN, Hon Justice Taiwo Taiwo Retired, Olumide Akpata, Austin Alege SAN, Samson Itodo of Yiaga Africa, Prof Nnamdi Obiaraeri, Moyosore Onigbanjo SAN, Senator Darlington Nwokocha and the governors of Lagos and Abia States.

The conference ended on a beautiful note with a classical dinner that had surplus food and drinks for the conferees.

The last day witnessed a new election that produced the new leadership made up of capable men and women that are ready to take the Section to a new and better level in Jesus name.
As usual a communique was issued, read and widely published.

In between these annual conferences, the Section held some other important programs for the entrenchment of proper enlightenment on public interest issues for good governance in NBA and the country generally.

When exparte orders and forum shopping became disturbing trend that painted the legal profession in the bad light, we rose to the occasion and held a Webinar Event that had a retired Justice of the Supreme Court Hon Justice Rhodes Vivour, Former President of NBA Mr J.B. Daudu SAN, Lateef Fagbemi SAN, current AG of Nigeria, Justin Anayo Offiah SAN, Olumide Akpata the then NBA President, Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akerodolu SAN in attendance. They agreed that this abuse is usually rampant in election cases especially in pre election matters. They all condemned the abuse and variously prescribed punitive measures to stem the tide. This event took place in 2021.

In 2022 we held a Townhall meeting on the justiciability of Socio economic rights provided under Chaper Two of the 1999 Constitution as Amended

The hybrid summit had the theme Justiciability of Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution, Pragmatic Measures for Government Accountability. The event was Chaired by Hon Justice Helen Ogunwumiju of the Supreme Court. It had the then Chief Judge of Abia State Hon Justice Onuoha Ogwe, Hon Luke Oniofok, Chairman House Committee on Judiciary, Mr Suleiman Usman SAN, Sokoto then AG, Olawale Fapohunda SAN, the then Ekiti State AG. The then President Mr Olumide Akpata was too keen on this subject and did everything to ensure the success of the program. Mr Femi Falana SAN again was the Lead Presenter on the topic.

After the brainstorming event, it was generally accepted that for the human rights entrenched in the constitution to be meangful, socio economic rights must enjoy the same legal recognition of justiciability as have been done in some countries like India and other Asian countries.

Finally, I recommend that the new Exco should look towards conveying a town hall meeting on dealing with some of the legal Impediments bedeviling public interest litigations in our judicial system. One of the notable principles is the obnoxious principle of Locus Standi which the courts in Nigeria have religiously used to deny public interest litigants seeking accountability, respect to rule of law and good governance access to courts.

This Townhall must have judges of the Federal High courts in large numbers as they remain the greatest culprits with this principle. Despite that the Supreme Court has magnanimously set a breaking record of reversing the earlier rigid position as established in Abraham Adesanya’s case in the latest case of NNPC Vs Centre for Oil Pollution Watch, our courts at the lower levels are still stock with the primitive position that courts should interrogate the status of a messenger rather than the message.

We need to stop the bad behaviour of our judges in this regard by the sensitisation that I recommend that NBA-SPIDEL should spearhead.

Thanks and God bless the New Exco and the members of NBA-SPIDEL. Take it from me, if you believe and work towards it, YOU WILL ALL MAKE HEAVEN.

Dr. Ubani Monday O.
Former Chairman of NBA-SPIDEL

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