The stage is obviously set for a showdown between the Presidency and the body of lawyers in the country represented by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
The disagreement between both sides representing the judicial and executive arms of government stems from the recent early morning raids by the Department of State Security (DSS) on some judges’ homes in some parts of the country.
While the presidency insist that the raid was a ‘surgical operation’against corruption, and not targeted at the judiciary, the NBA has insisted that it was a ploy to intimidate them, and will not be accepted.
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu in a statement Sunday night, said “The presidency assures that the president reserves his highest respect for the institution of the judiciary as the third arm of government”, and that “To this end, the president will not do anything to undermine its independence.”
According to him, “In a robust democracy such as ours, there is bound to be a plurality of opinions on any given issue, but there is a convergence of views that the country has a corruption problem that needs to be corrected.”
He however blamed the media for what he said is a misrepresentation of the views. “But reports by a section of the media are giving us cause for concern. In undertaking the task of reporting, the media should be careful about the fault lines they open.
“It is wrong to present this incident as a confrontation between the executive and judicial arms of government”, he stated.
But the NBA president, Mr Abubakar Mamoud, SAN, insisted that the raid is meant to subdue the judiciary into submission.
Mamoud, while addressing newsmen on Sunday in Lagos, alongside three past Presidents of the association, namely, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Dr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, Mr Joseph Daudu, SAN, and Mr Austine Aleghe, SAN, on the arrest and detention of the judges said, “This is a ploy by the executive to intimidate the judiciary and we will not accept it. The NBA will not accept it.”
He continued, “We condemn the raids in the strongest possible terms. We are in a democratic society and we cannot accept a situation where armed masked DSS operatives invade the homes of the justices of the Supreme Court and judges of our high courts.
“I want to emphasise again that we are not under military rule and we cannot accept this Gestapo style of operation.
“First, the NBA demands the immediate and unconditional release of the justices the Supreme Court still being held by the DSS without further delay.
“The DSS should limit itself to its constitutional duties and responsibilities. We demand that President Muhammadu Buhari should call his security agencies to order as this kind of practice is not acceptable under a democratic rule.
“If there are issues affecting judicial officers, there are established processes and procedures for handling them and we demand that these constitutional processes must be obeyed.
“I have declared a state of emergency on the legal profession over the matter and I have invited past Presidents and Secretary Generals of the association. I have also set up a Crisis Committee team which shall consist of past Presidents and Secretary Generals of the association to follow up on the matter”, he stated.
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