Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) has accused the Federal Government of attacking the independence of the judiciary and of the legal profession in a contrived plan to intimidate judges and cow lawyers particularly with a pseudo fight against so-called corruption.
The body accused government of using the court system originally designed for justice to terrorise members of the legal profession.
Speaking for the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), lamented that lawyers are now plying their trade under heavy cloud of fear.
The event was to mark the new legal year of the FCT High Court, yesterday.
He noted the emerging and revealing phenomenon is that these erosions of the rule of law are occurring in countries with elected governments, not military regimes.
“In other words, merely enthroning a civilian government is not a guarantee for democracy and the rule of law.
The strategy is to “weaponise of the law”, that is, to use the law as a weapon, by using the very court system originally designed for justice, to terrorise members of the legal profession by ascribing and arraignment for phantom charges. To this is added the strategy of public vilification/media trials of lawyers and the judiciary.
“Now lawyers are plying their trade under a heavy cloud of fear, particularly those who have briefs to defend clients who may not be in good standing with the Government of the day. These attacks always represent the initial symptoms of descent to authoritarianism as the fabrics of democracy and freedom are gradually weakened and destroyed when the independence of the judiciary and the independence of the legal profession are attacked and eroded.
“Since it is the Bar that will fight for the independence of the Judiciary, an emasculation of the Bar through attacks on the independence of the legal profession will result in the direct erosion of the independence of the Judiciary.
“The independence of the judiciary and the legal profession are not for the benefit of lawyers; they are actually for the benefit of the society and this is because, once the lawyers are cowed, the fundamental rights of the citizens to be represented by lawyers of their choices are destroyed, and indeed justice dispensation is threatened and undermined.
“Therefore the Bench and the Bar must be jointly involved in the defence of the independence of the Judiciary. What affects the Bench affects the Bar and vice versa. We must adopt a ‘mutually-assured-defence’ strategy to protect the rule of law.”
Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of the FCT High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello, disclosed that a total of 13, 961 cases was disposed in 2018/2019 legal year.