The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has chastised Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike for referring to the organization as a “paper tiger”, and argued that the governor had no moral right to chastise the body.
Wike claimed the NBA had become a paper tiger and failed in its obligation to safeguard the judiciary in Nigeria and rescue it from political intimidation during a book launch in honor of the recently retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Mary Peter-Odili.
The Governor had 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.
“It is quite unfortunate that the NBA is only good at issuing statements of condemnation without more, while the judiciary continues to suffer ferocious bouts of harassment from a Federal Government that has become notorious for its contemptuous attitude towards the rule of law and the rights of Nigerians to an effective justice system.”
However, NBA President Olumide Akpata said in a statement on Thursday that while the league would naturally disregard specific criticism, it was difficult not to reply to Wike’s unfounded charges about the NBA.
He argued that the same Wike confronted the NBA and threatened it when they spoke out against issues in Rivers state they felt was wrong.
Akpata said, “It is indeed quite ironic that Governor Wike made these unfortunate statements at an event held in honour of Justice Mary Odili in support of whom the NBA stood firm in the face of that brazen attack on her home in Abuja by some persons who are now standing trial in our law courts.
“That Wike has chosen so quickly to either forget or ignore this, and other actions of the NBA in support of the judiciary, is suggestive of a dissonance that is most disconcerting and should give one serious cause for concern.
“It is very convenient for the governor to ask Nigerian lawyers (as he did at the Book Launch) to emulate their apparently more courageous Pakistani colleagues when the issues at stake do not concern him directly; but when in 2019, the very same Nigerian lawyers had the temerity to question his handling of the security situation in Rivers State and threatened to boycott the courts if there was no abatement of the rising insecurity in the state, he was only too quick to lambast the lawyers and to withdraw his support for the association in the state.”
Akpata further explained that the NBA’s noteworthy role as a main defender of the rule of law and guardian of the judiciary in Nigeria is well documented in the country’s political and legal history.
While the NBA may have hesitated at times in the past to take on these responsibilities, it is not known to have done so recently, he stated.
The NBA Chairman added, “Our commitment to defend the judiciary and its integrity has remained unshaken and the NBA has been making spirited efforts to discharge that responsibility creditably in the less than two years since this administration of the NBA assumed office. Illustrative examples abound to drive home this point, and three well-known examples remain fresh in the consciousness of Nigerians and constitute recent history that cannot be rewritten even by a personality of Wike’s calibre.”
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