With a pledge to sustain judicial independence, President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday opened this year’s Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at the Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The President said he was not dictating to the third arm of government.
He explained that the Federal Government under his watch had demonstrated this by accepting unfavourable court judgments.
President Buhari, who was represented by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Justice Minister Abubakar Malami (SAN), restated his administration’s commitment to strengthening institutions.
Alluding to the raging controversy about the recent trial of top judicial officers, the President pledged to justly apply the law against “sacred cows”.
He said: “We have had to disrupt the age-long wrong assumptions and historical narratives of the presumed immunity of sacred cows in our society, simply to demonstrate that henceforth the law will be used as a potent instrument to regulate the activities of all persons and institutions in our country in a fair and transparent manner.”
Malami affirmed government’s resolve to probe the circumstances surrounding the failed power project leading to $9 billion arbitration award against Nigeria in favour of British firm, P & ID.
The AGF regretted that the $9 billion is 20 per cent of Nigeria’s reserves and vowed that all culpable individuals and corporate bodies would be punished.
He said: “It is a sad testimony with potential for national economic disaster when legal issues are handled either in a compromised, ignorant or incompetent manner.
“Let me say that without prejudice to our right to challenge this award, Mr. President has already directed the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to take steps to ensure that all issues related to negotiation, signing, formation and obvious frustration of the purported contract are duly investigated and all persons and institutions, whether in the private or public sector, who acted in ways that have now made our dear nation face potential economic adversity and widespread opprobrium are made to face the law and prosecution in the law court.
“Never again shall we allow such short-sighted individuals to compromise our national interest and walk away without a sense of accountability… Never again,” Buhari said.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, noted that the Judiciary was not truly independent financially.
He promised that it would not lose “its firm grip on the mantle of honesty, transparency and integrity”.
The CJN, who explained that those three virtues formed the pivot of his administration, said the judges do not regard “anybody’s face or feelings” in deciding cases.
He said: “By the grace of Almighty God, I will tenaciously hold on to that, even until that very moment of my last breath on earth.
“Let me assure this assembly that we don’t look at anybody’s face or feelings before making our decisions.
“If there is any deity to be feared, that deity is the Almighty God. We will never be subservient to anybody, no matter how highly placed.”
He pleaded with those preventing judicial independence to desist.
“Please, all that are concerned, let us enjoy our independence. If you say that I am independent, but in a way whether I like it or not, I have to go and bend down, asking (for funds) I have lost my independence” Muhammad said.
Muhammed added that Supreme Court and Court of Appeal Justices sacrificed their annual vacation this year to clear the backlog of “time-sensitive cases”. He admonished lawyers to desist from the practice of filing needless appeals at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
The CJN warned that the apex court would be unsparing in punishing “blatant abusers of the court processes”.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu urged lawyers to key into the ongoing global technological transformation, if they must remain relevant.
Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said with the impact of technology in different aspects of life, the legal profession, as the voice of the voiceless, could not afford to swim against the tide in the scheme of things. NBA President Paul Osoro assured that the association’s members would ensure that the legal profession in Nigeria was “placed on the pedestal of integrity”.
Delivering the keynote address, the International Bar Association (IBA) President Horatio Neto urged Nigerian lawyers to promote gender parity and ethnicity. He also advised them to specialise in different fields of technology that are relevant to the law profession at the global sphere.
NBA Closely Monitoring Edo Election, Says Aikpokpo Martins
The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) says it is closely monitoring the activities leading to the governorship election in Edo State.
NBA First Vice President, John Aikpokpo-Martins, disclosed this on Thursday during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily in Abuja.
He explained that the body is satisfied with the peaceful manner political actors have conducted themselves so far.
“The NBA does not have the resources to follow up from the beginning to the end. As an association, this particular team was set up to observe from tomorrow till the election will be over; that is to say to the announcement of the result.
“However, we have been watching and observing all that is going on. For now, we are satisfied to the extent that the parties have conducted themselves very well, they have campaigned hard,” he said.
Speaking on the possibility of violence in the polls, the legal practitioner said there have been allegations of “threat to violence but not actual violence yet.”
The NBA leader said the allegations and counter-allegations do not automatically translate to violence on the election day.
Aikpokpo-Martins, who is also an indigene of Edo State, said the state does not have a history of violence in previous elections.
Although he admitted that the political atmosphere is tensed with the “temperature very high,” he is however optimistic of a peaceful conduct of the exercise on September 19.
“The security is very tight now. There are a lot of soldiers, a lot of policemen on the streets. I am very sure that will dissuade merchants of violence from going out to disrupt the election in a violent way,” he said.
His remarks come two days after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki embraced his main rival and contender in the poll, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The duo beaming with smiles warmly hugged each other, an indication that they have decided to toe the line of peace and avoid unnecessary bloodshed in the election.
Obasanjo’s Comment: Not Every Criticism Should Give You Sleepless Nights – Adesina
Mr. Adesina who on Wednesday made the comment in reply to recent criticism by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The former president while delivering a speech titled ‘Moving Nigeria Away from Tipping Over’ at a consultative dialogue attended by various socio-cultural groups, said Nigeria is falling apart under Buhari.
At the consultative dialogue attended by members of various groups, including Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, and Pan Niger Delta Forum, Obasanjo noted that the country is becoming the world capital of poverty.
He said, “I do appreciate that you all feel sad and embarrassed as most of us feel as Nigerians with the situation we find ourselves in,” Obasanjo said. “Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state; economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.
“And these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country. Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration, and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere.”
Reacting to comments by the former president, Mr Adesina said all criticisms must be thoroughly looked at to ascertain what value they add to discussions around moving the nation forward. He, however, argued that “not every criticism should give one sleepless night”.
According to Adesina, there is no government that Obasanjo has not criticized.
“Obasanjo has criticised every government since the Shehu Shagari government that succeeded him in 1979. The only government he has not criticised is the Olusegun Obasanjo government”.
The media aide added that Obasanjo has a right to air his opinions, he, however, stressed that it is in the Buhari government’s right to take the former president’s reproval or dismiss them as mere claims aimed to detract from a performing administration.
Earlier in the week, the Presidency asked former President Olusegun Obasanjo to help in proffering solutions to the problems plaguing the country instead of being Nigeria’s “divider-in-Chief.”
While reacting to the recent outburst by Obasanjo that Nigeria is becoming a failed state, the Presidency in a statement on Sunday, called on him to quit critiquing the President Muhammadu Buhari government.
“In his most recent statement, former President Olusegun Obasanjo attempts to divide the nation while President Muhammadu Buhari continues to promote nation-building and the unity of Nigeria,” the presidency said.
“The difference is clear. From the lofty heights of Commander-in-Chief, General Obasanjo has descended to the lowly level of Divider-in-Chief (to adapt the coinage of Time).”
Obasanjo, according to the Presidency, should “once again sheath the sword and rest the pretentiousness about the Messiah that has (mis)led him to pronounce often wrongly, as he disastrously did in the 2019 elections, about the life and death of Nigerian governments.”
It restated that Buhari’s comments on West African leaders sticking to their constitutionally allowed terms is for the good of the region.
While accusing Obasanjo of a failed attempt at elongating his tenure when he was in office, the Presidency called on him to stop the “mushrooming of a poisonous atmosphere of ethnic and religious nationalism.”
“Surely, he must have disappointed many of his local and foreign admirers by showering commendations on a few extremist groups who have vowed to shun the invitation to the National Assembly to participate in the process of a constitutional amendment,” the presidency added.
Ondo PDP Accuse APC Of Attacking Party’s Campaign Team
As the political campaign rallies towards the October ten 2020 governorship election commence in Ondo State, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the State has accused the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) of attacking the campaign team of its governorship candidate, Eyitayo Jegede in Oba-Akoko in Akoko South West Local Government Area of the state.
A press statement made available to newsmen in Akure, the state capital by the Head of Media, Research, Eyitayo Jegede Campaign Organisation, Samuel Fasua partly reads:
“No fewer than five persons sustained varying degrees of injuries Today, Wednesday, September 16, 2020, when, quite unexpectedly, the convoy of Ondo State governor, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu stormed Oba-Akoko in Akoko South-West and started attacking the campaign team of Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, the PDP governorship flagbearer.
“As at now, no fewer than three vehicles in the convoy of Jegede have been badly damaged, while Jegede himself is being held hostage inside the palace of the monarch of Oba-the Oloba, by gun-totting hoodlums suspected to be agents of the governor.
“Curiously, Akeredolu was sighted inside the convoy while the attacks lasted, while police operatives in the location simply vacillated and looked on in the face of the orgies of madness.”
Fasua in the statement laments that the continued attacks of APC thugs on PDP supporters in the state in recent times are threatening the peace of the state.
The statement appeals to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police to intervene before the situation gets out of hand.
“We earnestly call on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector-General of Police to urgently wade in, to save the lives of members of the public who are being prevented by the powers-that-be in Ondo State from belonging to political parties of their choice.” the statement ended.
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