Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Lawyers trooped out at various divisions of the courts in Abuja today to take their cases contrary to the directive issued by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), for a two-day boycott of the courts in protest of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen last Friday by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The association said it was protesting against the constitutional infractions in the suspension of Walter Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The decision was taken after an emergency meeting of its National Executive Committee (NEC) held at the NBA House, Abuja.
However, many lawyers including some Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) appeared before the various hierarchy of the courts fully robbed.
The meeting which was presided over by the NBA President, Paul Usoro (SAN), was attended by statutory NEC members of the NBA including the national officers, past presidents, past general secretaries, branch chairmen, branch secretaries, branch NEC representatives and chairmen and secretaries of sections.
At the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Maitama division, lawyers were seen in their numbers rushing to court in their wigs and gowns.
However, most of the cases were adjourned due to the inability of the courts to sit.
At the Federal High Court, only one of the courts presided by Justice Binta Nyako sat as lawyers in their numbers besieged the court for the determination of their pending matters.
Meanwhile, there was a rowdy atmosphere created by lawyers in Court 5 following which Justice Ahmed Mohammed who was in chambers invited them for consultation.
After emerging from the judge’s chambers, Mr. Hassan Liman, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) expressed the need for lawyers to conduct themselves in an orderly manner.
After calming strained nerves, Liman said the judge was ready to sit, although he found out that other courts were not sitting. “It is left for us to decide whether to take our cases or not.”
The lawyers, however, resolved to take dates and had their matters adjourned to further dates.
About 90 cases were adjourned at the Federal High Court as most of the courts failed to sit.
Some of the lawyers, who spoke with our correspondent and pleaded anonymity, said they came to court because they had cases.
While some were of the view that boycotting the court would be a disservice to their clients if their matters were called and their legal representatives were absent.
According to one of them “some lawyers came perhaps on the impression that the courts were not carried along. And it will be disastrous if you are not there when you matter is called.
“Many people wanted to come to court and confirm if the NBA carried the judges along. So that is why you find so many of us in court.
“When some of the judges are sitting, lawyers will be left with no option than to take their matters,” he said.
When reminded that courts are not members of NBA to be carried along, he said: “Ordinarily, when this kind of thing happens, they have to be carried along, send a communiqué or circular intimating them of the call because judges are members of NBA too, even though they are not like private practitioners; judges are also lawyers.”
Another lawyer aligned with the fact that judges might not have been carried along. He said: “Normally when NBA gives such order, judges have to be informed of the resolution of NEC.”
Asked if those who appeared in court would be penalised, he doubted if such action would take place.
“You know there is chaos all over the place, on the part of the judiciary, the bar, even the government; lots of lawlessness is going on. I don’t see anybody penalising anybody.”
The presence of lawyers in court perhaps suggests a split of the NBA or they support the action of the Federal government.
“Certainly, one thing I can tell you from my experience and other lawyers in court today is not an endorsement of the Federal government. The government may think mischievously that lawyers have defied the NBA, certainly, this is not. All the lawyers are unanimous that this government is lawless, even though lawyers have a reservation for the judiciary and the NBA too.”
But another lawyer, while criticising the NBA’s directive said it was selfish and meant to protect the interest of its president who is facing trial in court.
“The NBA president, Mr Paul Usoro, has an unresolved in court and wants to use the boycott order to pursue a personal vendetta. if it were not a personal decision, on what basis is the boycott going to be beneficial to the public? ” he questioned.
Mr Stephen Opara, said that the call for lawyers to boycott courts for two days starting from January 29 was a good one as it would make the government to ensure that its actions were guided by the provisions of the constitution.
Both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court sat on some pending appeals.
While a panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal was led by Justice Yahaya Abubakar, Justice Mary Odili led a five-member panel of the Justices of the Supreme Court.