Encomiums have continued to pour in for Nigerian Bar Association President-elect, Mr. Olumide Akpata over his victory at the just concluded NBA National Officers Elections.

In his congratulatory message, President Muhammadu Buhari said: “I congratulate Olumide Akpata on his election as the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), a crucial stakeholder in our democracy. I wish him every success in the new position, and assure the new leadership of the continued cooperation of our administration.”

Replying, Akpata said he was especially delighted that the president acknowledged NBA as a “crucial stakeholder in our democracy.” His words: “Your Excellency, thank you for your kind words, and in particular the acknowledgement of the @NigBarAssoc as a crucial stakeholder in our democracy and the assurance of your administration’s cooperation. It is a partnership that can only be beneficial to the Nigerian populace.”

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said: “@OlumideAkpata’s victory at the just concluded @NigBarAssoc’s elections is proof that real power lies with the people. Congratulations, I am confident you will do well and also deliver convincingly on the mandate of which you now carry. –AA”

In his response, Akpata wrote: “Thank you Your Excellency @atiku. Indeed the people [lawyers] spoke, and in very clear terms too. Thank you for the vote of confidence. The real work starts now and it is my pledge that the mandate will be fulfilled and posterity will judge us well.”

Former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki also felicitated with the NBA President-elect on his verified Twitter handle, saying: “I offer my congratulations to @OlumideAkpata on his emergence as President of the
@NigBarAssoc. His was a blistering campaign which promised to revolutionise and reposition the NBA, not only for the benefit of its members but for the generality of the Nigerian society.”

Replying, Akpata wrote: “Your Excellency Dr @bukolasaraki Floreat! It was truly a blistering campaign and one which soon became obviously not about any one individual but a cause for the majority of Nigerian lawyers (both young and old). I commit to not letting them down. KC did not teach us that.”

Next in line was the Governor of Edo State, Akpata’s home State. He wrote: ” Congratulations to @OlumideAkpata on his emergence as the President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). He brings with him years of enviable success as a distinguished lawyer and is sure to steer the NBA to glorious heights. Congratulations, once more!”

“My Governor @GovernorObaseki,” Akpata wrote, “thank you for your kind wishes. It will be a thing of pride for us to be able to steer the @NigBarAssoc to glorious heights and make it value adding for our members and the general society. That is our minimum target.”

Also not left out is the Governor of Delat State, Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, who tweeted thus: “I congratulate my friend and brother, Barrister @OlumideAkpata, on his emergence as the next President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Over the years, Barrister Akpata has worked to strengthen the legal profession and empower a new generation of Nigerian lawyers.

“As he prepares to steer the affairs of the NBA, it is my fervent hope that lawyers across Nigeria work with the new leadership of the NBA and Barrister Akpata to provide more efficient and effective access to justice for all Nigerians.”

In his response, Akpata tweeted: “Your Excellency @IAOkowa I appreciate the glowing endorsement. Indeed the hardwork is just about to start. We are optimistic of a new dawn for the @NigBarAssoc.”

Popular social media influencer, Dr. Joe Abah was not left out of the outpouring of encomiums. He tweeted: “Congratulations, my brother @OlumideAkpata, on your election as NBA President. Please celebrate tonight because there’s a lot of work ahead. The noble profession can be a real force for change in this country. You can count on my continuing support.”

Akpata responded thus: “My brother @DrJoeAbah thank you. The amount of work to be done has never been lost on me. Indeed the unprecedented interest in the election even among the wider populace lends credence to your point. I will be counting on you on this journey. Thank you again, Ezemmuo.”

Akpata also found favour in the eyes of Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, a strident critic of the current NBA leadership. Having reviewed Akpata’s acceptance speech, Odinkalu tweeted: “Olu, this is a balanced statement. I’m particularly gratified by what you say about the #electoralprocess in @NigBarAssoc. In that, you’ll find lots of willing supporters. Welcome to the world of work,

Replying, Akpata wrote: “Thank you Prof @ChidiOdinkalu. My message about the electoral process remained consistent, before and after the poll. Indeed we can do better. With the support of the likes of you, we will approach the coming months and years with confidence.”

The NBA President-elect also received a congratulatory message from erstwhile NBA presidential aspirant and former NBA Ikeja Branch Chairman, Mr. Adesina Ogunlana and his group, Radical Agenda Movement in the NBA (RAMINBA ). Tracing the debacle that attended his quest, the group wrote: “However the indisputable fact is that a Leader has emerged and it is one Leader, who, right from the onset, has always had a formidable presence in the field and a constant leading contestant.”

Akpata also acknowledged receipt of congratulatory telephone call from his closest rival and former NBA presidential candidate, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN, saying: “This morning, I received a call from Dr. @BAjibadeSAN and I have also read his congratulatory message both of which were quintessential Tunde, the gentleman who I have known for a long time who is my brother & friend and will always remain so. As I said in my thank you message, I will count on his support and counsel as we work towards Securing a United Bar that Works for All.”

On his part, Nigerian Law School teacher, Mr. Sylvester Udemezue said that while he had called Akpata to congratulate him on his victory, “I have also chosen this medium to, again, heartily congratulate the NBA President-elect, Mr. Akpata, on his victory. It was a keenly contested election, but someone had to win. The term ‘election’ itself suggests a contest between two or more persons at the end of which one person must win and another or others must lose, while all must thereafter continue as one. Dear sir, I urge you to be high-minded in victory; to reach out to the other contestants, indeed to all camps and also to endeavour to carry everyone along in your leadership of the NBA, during the next two years. This you should do in order to succeed, and make the NBA better, because your camp or supporters alone cannot make you succeed; they can only make you remain for only one side! I sincerely hope you be guided by the words of Michael Watson who once advised, ‘true winners and strong people don’t put others down, they lift them up.’ ”

In its congratulatory message signed by its Convener, Mr. Chuma Akana, Innovation and Technology Lawyers Network wrote: “We believe the NBA is properly positioned to navigate the intersection of law and technology, as we look forward to a technology driven NBA. We also look forward to a Nigerian Bar Association that will encourage interested members to build capacity and jurisprudence in emerging areas of tech law including Fintech, blockchain, data privacy, artificial intelligence etc.”

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In the course of last week, both Chambers of the National Assembly took up the issue of failing security across the land. Whilst the Senate asked that the service chiefs be sacked, the House of Representatives interacted with the security agencies. It is now clear to all and sundry, at least from the comments and contributions of lawmakers across party lines, that Nigeria is approaching a failed state. The pogrom going on in Southern Kaduna presently is totally unacceptable. In a programme that I monitored on television recently, a presidential aide was challenged to take a drive around his constituency without security patrol if indeed he feels Nigeria is safe enough. The worsening security situation across the land should be a cause for concern to all of us. The President has a duty to act fast, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

Nigeria became a State formally in 1960, with sovereign powers transferred from the British colonialists to the representatives of the people. By law however, section 2 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states that “Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, and by section 2 (2) thereof, “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of states and a Federal Capital Territory”. So, in the real sense of the word, Nigeria is created as a sovereign state consisting of federating units. Fair enough, the same Constitution that created the Nigerian Federation also specified the kind of powers that it should exercise and the functions it should perform, for its citizens. In this regard, Chapter 2 of the self-same Constitution, comes to bear. I will limit myself for this discourse however, to section 14 of the Constitution.

Under and by virtue of section 14 (2) (a), “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution, derives ALL its powers and authority” (emphasis supplied). In very simple terms therefore, the sovereignty attached to the entity known as the Federal Republic of Nigeria, resides in the people of Nigeria. In essence, all our leaders hold power in trust for the people of Nigeria and they cannot go on acting as if it is the other way round. To break it down more, there is no President who should claim to be in power, there is no Governor who should assert any authority and there should be no legislative house or even a court of law, that should rule over and above the people and be lording policies and decisions over them. Power belongs to the people, pure and simple. The fact that the people of Africa and especially Nigeria, have been living in the opposite of civility and modernisation, whereby those elected into office by the people turn around to arrogate power to themselves, cannot be an excuse to obfuscate this simple truth.

Now to section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution, wherein it is stated expressly and without equivocation, that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” A community interpretation of section 14 (2) (a) and (b) respectively will show clearly that the Nigerian State was created for the people of Nigeria, that the focus of the entity called Nigeria is the people and that the target of power and existence of that Federation, is the people. It is good therefore, to sound it loud and clear, that the very existence of government, the totality of the exercise of power, by all and sundry, is for the security and welfare of the people and anything outside this, anything done that cannot achieve this, means a failure of governance. Pure and simple.

According to the learned authors of Merriam-Webster Dictionary, SECURITY means: “(a) freedom from danger (safety); (b) freedom from fear or anxiety; … something that secures, protection or measures taken to guard against espionage or sabotage, crime, attack, or escape.” The priority of security in governance is better illustrated by section 4 of the Police Act, wherein it is stated that the police shall be “… employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.” What stands out in this section is the phrase “protection of lives and property”. Now, let us match this with certain data recently released by the Inspector-General of Police himself.

At the quarterly Northern Traditional Rulers’ Council meeting held in Kaduna in, 2019, the then Inspector-General of Police stated that in the first quarter of 2019 alone, 1,071 persons lost their lives in crime-related cases across the country. He stated further that between January and April 2019 alone, 685 persons were kidnapped. Amnesty International has a higher figure of deaths and casualties. In 2018, it was estimated that about 6, 562 persons died from crime-related cases whilst generally, an estimate of about 13,000 persons are said to have died from the insurgency going on in the land, whilst about 1.1m people have been displaced thereby. Just in one year! This is surely frightening, to the extent that no one can claim to sleep with the two eyes closed, any longer. It may well be that the government is taking all necessary steps to contain the rising spate of insecurity across Nigeria, but this remains to be seen by all and sundry, in terms of security and safety, in the real sense of the word. The summary now would seem to be that the government has not been able to rise up to the challenges posed by insecurity. The death rate is climbing everyday.

Now to welfare, since the two main points of governance are security and welfare. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines WELFARE as “the state of doing well, especially in respect to good fortune, happiness, well-being, or prosperity.” Are we doing well as a people, presently? Are we enjoying some form of good fortune economically? Is the well-being of the people of this nation improving in any form at all? Are we happy, with the state of things in Nigeria? Is there prosperity in the land? Without any doubt whatsoever, suicide cases have increased, the economic power of the people has dwindled considerably and virtually everyone now depends on handouts from the government, as private businesses are all struggling to survive, in the absence of basic infrastructure, especially power supply. I have no doubt in my mind that the true testimony across the land is that the majority of the people are suffering indeed. I see it in the text messages that I receive every now and then, for financial assistance, I read it in the news daily, of how many States in the Federation are owing their workers salaries, for several months and how the ordinary people are just living from hand to mouth, barely eking out a living, just surviving and tagging along. Companies are closing down, on account of COVID 19 and there is palpable suffering across the land.

The present circumstance of Nigeria is that many people have become beggars of some sort. Even as businessmen and women, professionals and even as manufacturers, the bulk of the little profit margin is spent on infrastructure, whereby you are forced to generate your own electricity, provide your own water, build your own road, employ your own security, train your children in private schools or send them abroad, if they must excel, provide yourself health care if you must live, and may be buy your own car, if you must move around. It is that bad, that the government seemed to have shifted all its responsibilities to the citizens. And how exactly is anyone expected to survive in such hostile environment, where you spend most of your valuable time in traffic, you get home to sleep in intense heat and darkness and then you eventually manage to make it to the office the following day, only to be confronted with power outage, all day long, draining all human capacity, productivity and usefulness. Can we then say that we have a nation or that any form of governance is in place?

From all the above frightening scenarios, how do you then describe the entity created as Nigeria, if it is agreed that the two critical responsibilities of government are the security and welfare of the people? This piece became necessary as it would seem that those in authority do not well appreciate the enormity of the situation that we presently face in Nigeria or that state propaganda has so prospered and become the art of governance, that some of them are totally ensconced from the reality of present day Nigeria. Whereas I know that some well-meaning persons exist in authority presently, I verily believe that the time has now come, for some frank introspection that will translate into some genuine appreciation, of the debilitating welfare and security conditions of our people, if we are to say that there is governance at all. In the absence of that, the reasonable conclusion is that we are gradually moving to a failed state, as echoed by those legislators, who, very unfortunately, are themselves part and parcel of the failure of the state.

The President must act and act quickly, as time is running out on him. As an expert in security matters given his background as a military general, it is totally unacceptable that the President is unable to stem the rising tide of insecurity in the land, especially the terror of bandits, criminals and insurgents. How do we have leaders and we live like nomads, victims and aliens in our own country?

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

Rule of Law vs. National Security: What the Supreme Court Actually Said

President Muhammadu Buhari while giving an address at the opening ceremony of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) 2018 Annual General Conference, said: “Rule of Law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest. Our apex court has had cause to adopt a position on this issue in this regard and it is now a matter of judicial recognition that, where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of society.”

The assertion has raised controversies. CITY LAWYER LAW REPORT details below what the Supreme Court actually said in DOKUBO-ASARI V FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA: Continue Reading