As Lady Justitia Bleeds in Nigeria: What the NBA Must Do

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Nigeria is a multicultural and multi-religious country with various shades of strong ties to religions with all their peculiarities as if to give credence to the statement that Africans are incurably religious. The pervasive nature of our religion is evident in the passion employed to speak for same, and the conflict we have experienced over time. All places of worship are sacred, as such quae sacris sunt tractata pro sacris (sacred things are to be treated as sacred), thus no religion or her members stand aloof or akimbo while their tenets are violated or their worship centres invaded and desecrated. Every lawyer is not just a member, but also a minister in the temple of justice.

The primary task of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is to ensure promotion and protection of Human Rights, compliance with the Rule of Law, and good governance in Nigeria. If it fails in these duties, then the common man will have recourse to God when anarchy takes precedent over rule of law, and the judicial powers are usurped.

For the sake of clarity, according wikipedia the word “court” etymologically, is a derivative of the French word “cour,” an enclosed yard, an offshoot of the Latin form “cortem,” the accusative case of “cohors,” meaning an enclosed yard or the occupants of such a yard.

The English word court is a cognate of the Latin word “hortus” from Ancient Greek χόρτος (khórtos) (meaning “garden”, hence horticulture and orchard), both referring to an enclosed space. This shows the sacredness that should be accorded to the court.

The recent invasion of the temple of justice (our temple) and the devastating rupture of the hymen of our goddess lady justitia to the incessant rape by the apparatus of the executive led federal government is uncalled for, undemocratic, shameful and should be condemned by all right thinking members of the public especially lawyers and the Nigerian Bar Association in particular.

The Department of State Services (DSS) has so far debunked these insinuations, and claimed Mr. Sowore did acts inimical to security, but for a body that has continually flouted different orders of courts in Nigeria, the credibility of the statement is in doubt. Sowore was reluctantly released to make what can fittingly be described as a cameo appearance to portray the DSS as obeying the ultimatum given by the court.

The judiciary is an independent arm of government and not an appendage of the executive arm. Any monstrous tendencies by the executive must be called to question and curbed headlong. The current reign of terror, gangsterism and executive rascality is completely absurd and same must be resisted and jettisoned through concerted effort. One really wonders if we have returned to the state of nature, where might was right. We are not in a lawless society like the man of the “Leviathan” – Hobbes posited in his theory of social contract and as such, executive powers should never be employed as a tool of vendetta. Issues must be handled with merit and due process.
Baron De Montesque’s doctrine of separation of powers, which is a feature of every good democracy must be allowed to flourish in Nigeria like it does in many advanced Countries of the world that follow its dictates. The doctrine’s latin rendition “trias politica” suggests a strict separation between all the arms of government while acting as watchdogs to the activities of one another to create checks and balances. Hence, the incessant attacks and undue influence wielded by the executive over the judiciary is totally a double standard and a misrepresentation of the true principle of democratic governance which the rule of law is out to guarantee.

Moreso, a fundamental principle of equity is that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. It is reckless to disobey the order of the court, and still run to the same court for relief. The law cannot be implemented in breach. The DSS must stick to the rules of engagement and obey the orders of the Court. No person is above the law, and the law must be allowed to take its natural course. Right to bail is a constitutional right premised on the accusatorial system of justice we practice in Nigeria.

To this effect, the Constitution rightly posits that all persons standing trials are innocent until proven guilty. The Constitution is supreme over all persons and must be respected with all sense of sacredness. The executive arm of government derives its powers from the Constitution which is the grundnorm and the fons et origo of every law, power and authority, and must act within the limits provided by the law.

The Nigerian Bar Association must therefore, brace up to its responsibilities and ensure that the independence of the judiciary is not swept under the carpet. Every legal practitioner on the day of his call has sworn to an oath to ensure that justice is manifestly done. Justice as opined by Justice Oputa, is not a one way traffic, the accused must also be shown justice. It must not only be done but manifestly seen to be done by considering all sides at all times. Also on it’s part the Judiciary itself must brace up in the face of these challenges and stand against all forms of usurpation of its powers by any other arm of government. Disrespecting a judge and his or her court is like disrespecting the Federal Republic of Nigeria and judges should not hesitate to deal with any one who disrespects their Court regardless of their status or whose ox is gored. This should be the stand of the judiciary and this has once been taken by the learned Justice Evelyn Anyadike.

This is the only country we can call our own, no matter where we run to, as such the task of making Nigeria better is a collective one, and as men of the largest bar in Africa, we must not be quiet about perversion of justice. We must always allow ourselves to be guided by our consciences and uphold the course of justice by joining hands to strengthen the judiciary. God bless Nigeria, Good People, Great Nation.

 

By Francis Ojima Akoji Esq.

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