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Rule Of Law Comments: Wike Attacked NBA Due To ‘Vaulting Ambition’ To Be President – Akpata

The Nigerian Bar Association has responded to a claim made by the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, that Nigerian lawyers under the current NBA umbrella have failed to protect the rule of law and defend the judiciary.

The NBA President, Olumide Akpata, said in a statement that Wike is either ignoring the good works of fellow legal practitioners in Nigeria or is just being inconsiderate due to his desperation to be president of Nigeria.

Wike, while eulogizing Justice Mary Odili, who recently retired from the Supreme Court, at an event in Portharcourt on Monday, accused the NBA of being only good at issuing “statements”.

The governor, who is also a senior lawyer said: “What is even worrisome on the part of the NBA President is his failure to admit that the NBA, including the inner and outer bar which he leads, has failed in its responsibility to protect the rule of law and defend the judiciary from punitive intimidation and erosion of its independence by the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government.”

But in a reaction on Thursday, Akpata said the governor’s remarks were “baseless allegations against the NBA” and that Wike used the attack on NBA to sell his candidacy for the 2023 presidency.

He explained that Wike’s comments were incorrect because the NBA swiftly rose to the defence of Mary Peter-Odili JSC when her residence was invaded by rogue officers of the security agencies, among other things.

“While we understand that Governor Wike is currently on the political soapbox and, like a man with the proverbial new hammer, to whom any and everything is a nail, he will latch unto any chance to sell his candidacy, he cannot and should not be allowed to use the NBA as fodder of any sort for his vaulting ambition.

“Short of taking the law into our hands and carrying ammunition without licence to defend the Judiciary, the NBA insists that it is doing its best in the circumstance, and in an atmosphere that is widely acknowledged to be characterised by recklessness and little regard for the rule of law by governments at all levels. It is in this respect that the NBA views Governor Wike’s invectives as inconsiderate and uncharitable,” the statement party read.

Akpata further listed the following legal exploits of the NBA as a rebuttal to Wike:

“Firstly, there was the crisis that rocked the Cross River State Judiciary when, against established legal tradition, the Governor of the State refused to appoint the most senior Judge in the State – Justice Akon Ikpeme – as the substantive Chief Judge on the ground that she was not an indigene of Cross River State. That was an attempt by the executive arm of government to extend its political turf to the Judiciary, and the active role that the NBA played – both publicly and privately in defending the Judiciary and resolving that ugly debacle in that State (and a few other States where similar scenarios played out afterwards) is well-documented.

“Secondly, Nigerians would recall how the NBA swiftly rose to the defence of Mary Peter-Odili JSC (rtd) in particular, and the Nigerian Judiciary in general, when the former’s residence was invaded by rogue officers of the security agencies. The NBA’s fierce opposition to the illegal invasion also included the appointment of a Special Investigator to unravel those behind the illegality. That the Special Investigator, after an extensive fact-finding process, did not find the executive culpable is indicative of the fact that his appointment was not intended to achieve a contrived end, and should not be interpreted as the NBA being a “paper tiger”.

“Also fresh in our collective memories is the NBA’s defence of Honourable Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court who was wrongly excoriated by His Excellency Engr. Dave Umahi, Governor of Ebonyi State after an unfavourable judgment was entered against the Governor. The NBA’s defence of the Judiciary in that case would later result in an almost immediate apology by the Governor.

“More generally, the NBA has at different times in the last twenty months, filed public interest lawsuits to challenge the excesses of the Government and its agencies; issued strongly worded statements and reprimands in which it named and shamed political leaders with despotic and undemocratic tendencies; initiated a process to enthrone the appointment of only the best from amongst us as Judges; and even joined in a ten-week long strike action (with significant economic loss to our members and other debilitating effects) in a bid to contribute towards our quest for a more independent and efficient Judiciary in Nigeria.”

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