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Nigerian govt assaulted rule of law in 2019 —NBA

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The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Wednesday decried the “horrifying assault” on the rule of law by the Federal Government last year.

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The NBA in a New Year message signed by its National President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) lamented that rule of law was persistently assaulted and laid prostrate by the Executive through its “misbehaviors and high-handedness.”

The body warned that it would be impossible for peace and justice to reign in any country that continues to pay lip service to the rule of law.

According to the NBA, 2019 was the year that “removal of public officers through nebulous and reprehensible ex-parte orders of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) gradually became the norm in our national life”.

The body said: “It started with the removal of erstwhile Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable Justice Walter Onnoghen (GCON) through a purported CCT ex-parte order in the first quarter of 2019 and, towards the end of the year, this abnormality was repeated with the removal from office of the Acting Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Lady Azuka Azinge through a questionable ex-parte order.

“This is one innovation in our national life that does not bode well for the security of tenure of our public officers. Economic growth can only be attained in an atmosphere of predictability and certainty.

“This new practice of tripping and removing our public officers through contrived CCT ex-parte orders corrodes confidence in the system. It not only assaults our collective sensibilities when CCT ex-parte orders are used to ease out public officers but erodes due process, a fundamental plank of the rule of law.

“This is as disingenuous as the other unacceptable practice of tarring public officers to provide purported justification for their removal. That practice has been extended to private sector professionals including legal practitioners with potentially deleterious impact on wealth-creation capabilities.

“2019 was the year that our courtroom was invaded by officials of the Department of State Security (DSS) in an attempt to re-arrest a defendant who had been granted bail by the court and was released by the Department only the previous day.

“This was a horrifying assault on the rule of law and the sacred sanctum of our courts and judicial processes. It is somewhat reassuring that, in the dying days of 2019 and at the instance of the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), both Omoyele Sowore and Sambo Dasuki were finally released from confinement by the DSS, after being detained for prolonged periods against the orders of courts.

“It is our hope that, in 2020, we would build on this new resolve by government and ensure that court orders are obeyed across the board by our state officials and agencies.

“In 2019, our judicial officers and our courts continued to be disparaged, blackmailed and intimidated by state officials. Lawyers and the legal profession were not spared.

“Lawyers and retired judicial officers were prosecuted, hauled before law enforcement agencies and detained solely on account of their professional services to clients.

“Some lawyers were brutalized by law enforcement agents while carrying out their professional duties. Law was weaponized against lawyers and judicial officers and some of our judicial officers were kidnapped and assaulted by criminal elements, in an unabated assault on the rule of law and, in particular, the twin independence of the judiciary and the legal profession.”

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