From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) have condemned the actions of the Imo State Government and the Nigerian Police Force leading to the closure of the Owerri division of the National Industrial Court.
While the NBA attributed the closure to what it described as a “display of executive recklessness by the government of Imo State aided by the Nigerian Police Force”, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria frowned at the culture of constant invasion of residence of judicial officers.
The leadership of the two associations spoke separately in Abuja at the 2022/2023 legal year of the National Industrial Court.
In his speech, the President of the NBA, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, condemned the role played by the Imo State Government and the police in the closure of the court.
“The NBA condemned and still condemns in the strongest terms, such display of executive recklessness by the Government of Imo State aided by the Nigerian Police Force,” he said.
It is sad to note that our colleagues who ought to know better were complicit in the shameless attempt at undermining the authority of the Court. We must always remember that the rule of law is essential in the maintenance of a free, fair, and democratic society, and so there is need to respect and uphold the
“On 3 June 2022, four staff of the National Industrial Court, Owerri Division, were attacked and whisked away by the anti-kidnap squad of the Nigerian Police, while performing their lawful duty, to wit: the execution the Garnishee Order Absolute made by the court in Suit No. NICN/OW/19M/2021 between Prince Eze Madumere v. Governor of Imo State, Attorney General of Imo State, Imo State Government and Zenith Bank Plc, on 27 May 2022. Subsequent to the orders of this Court aforestated, the Attorney General of Imo State on 3 June 2022, approached the Imo State High Court and obtained an order ex parte against Zenith Bank and others, which restrained the Respondents therein (including Zenith Bank which already under an order of the National Industrial Court to pay money to Prince Eze Madumere) from complying with the Garnishee Order of this Court.
“With the said ex parte order of the High Court of Imo State, the execution of the judgement of the National Industrial Court was frustrated. The security details of the presiding Judge were withdrawn, and a demonstration held in front of His Lordship’s premises. This led the honourable, the President of the Court to direct, and justifiably so, the immediate closure of that Division. We must all guard it jealously, as a way of securing our democracy so that our society will not drift into anarchy or tyranny.
The NBA President added that “A society governed by law, as opposed to the whims and caprices of individual is in the best interest of every one of us, great or small. In the words of Honourable Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, JSC (of blessed memory), the rule of law is a shield and a fortress against tyranny and oppression.
“It is the defender and custodian of individual rights and the liberties of the citizen. It is an asylum and comfort to the oppressed and a guarantee of hope for the innocent. The rule of law is also a chilling terror to the oppressor, the vile, and the malignant.
“In the case of Military Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt 18) 621 at 647, His Lordship (Oputa, JSC) had earlier asserted that:
“The Rule of Law presupposes that the state is subject to the law, that the judiciary is a necessary agency of the Rule of Law, that the Government should respect the right of the individual citizen under the Rule of Law and that to the Judiciary is assigned both by the Rule of Law and by our constitution the determination of all actions and proceedings relating to matters in disputes between persons,
governments or authority.”
“It is the honest display of respect for the rule of law that sustains the faith of the society in the courts as the citadel of justice. The executive and legislature must always cooperate with the Courts to sustain public confidence in the justice system, otherwise the society will be plunged into anarchy. May that day never come.
“To my colleagues at the Bar, I wish to repeat my warning to us, that there will be consequences for our actions and inactions that threaten to ridicule our profession.
“We must be wary of sharp practices and remember always, as we discharge our duties to clients, that our primary duty is to the court and to justice; that is why we are called Ministers in the Temple of Justice. The desire for justice and the enthronement of the rule of law must, therefore, always be our primary motivation.
“I reiterate my administration’s commitment to respect for the rule of law and zero tolerance for professional misconduct, either at the Bar or on the Bench. We shall also continue to stand with the courts and do everything possible to protect the integrity of the Bench against any form of intimidation by any person or group of persons, or the political class.”
On its part, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria decried the constant invasion of judges residences by agents of government. Speaking through its Chairman, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, said: ” I am fanatic about respect for the judicial arm of Government, and obedience to the rule of law hence my vehement opposition to the infamous invasion of the homes of our judges; the last being in Kano in September 2022.
“This incidence was crude,clear impunity which must not be allowed to be swept under the carpet as one of those incidents. Somebody must be held responsible and suffer for the assault on the judiciary,” Awomolo stated.