The Nigerian Bar Association has reviewed the Nigerian democratic space in 2019 and come up hard on the government of President Muhammadu Buhari accusing of “executive misbehaviour and high-handedness”, and saying that rule of law was “persistently assaulted” and judicial officers “disparaged, blackmailed and intimidated by State officials” under its watch in 2019.
The scathing report was contained in a New Year’s Day message signed by its President, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN).
The umbrella body of legal officers in Nigeria, which seemed mortified of the Buhari administration since 2015, appeared to regain its voice in the new year message.
The statement said the association will “persist in holding governments to account, particularly as it relates to the promotion and protection of the rule of law and the delivery of democracy dividends to our people.”
Mr Usoro’s statement contested the removal from office of former Chief Justice, Walter Onnoghen and acting Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Lady Obiageli Azuka Azinge “through a questionable ex parte order”.
The statement recalled “the horrifying assault on the rule of law and the sacred sanctum of our courts and judicial processes”, when operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) allegedly entered a federal courtroom forcefully to arrest dissident, Omoyele Sowore, causing a terrified federal judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, to abandon her courtroom and flee to safety.
The statement, however, added that the eventual release of Mr Sowore and Sambo Dasuki (a former National Security Advisor standing trial for corruption since 2015) was “somewhat reassuring”.
“It is our hope that, in 2020, we would build on this new resolve by the government and ensure that court orders are obeyed across board by our State officials and agencies.”
The NBA statement finally called on Nigerians to demand that their leaders keep the “pledges that they made when they courted” our votes and to protect their “rights that are guaranteed to us in our Constitution and in the social contract with elected officials.”