President Muhammadu Buhari has challenged members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to uphold and improve the sanctity and integrity of the nation’s judicial and electoral institutions to enhance democratic culture in the country.
The President gave the challenge while declaring open 2018 Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja on Sunday.
He also enjoined them to work for national cohesion and unity through their speeches, public positions and most importantly in their advocacy in court.
According to him, the call had become imperative as the nation is gradually moving into another season of intense political activities preparatory to the 2019 general elections.
“As we gradually move into another season of intense political activities preparatory to the 2019 General Elections, I enjoin you to remember that by reason of your profession, you all have a responsibility to work for national cohesion and unity through your speeches and public positions and most importantly in your advocacy in court.
“In the context of opinions and narratives about our past and present political and socio-economic experience, you cannot afford to jettison rational and proper analysis of issues in a manner which builds, rather than destroys the nation.
President Buhari noted that the law can only be optimally practiced in a Nigeria that is safe, secure and prosperous.
The president, however, assured the lawyers of the resolve of his administration to promote measures that would achieve a vibrant economy under which the practice of law will thrive.
He said: “Through fiscal discipline, good housekeeping, we navigated the difficult days of economic transformation at the beginning of this government in 2015.
“We have now come to improving economic indices, including the consistent increase in our foreign reserves; thirteen straight months of decreasing inflation; the expansion of social safety nets programmes as well as the blockages of historical drain pipes in our national treasury, all within the context of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
“It is equally significant to emphasize that our willingness to hold persons accountable for offences against society, through the judicial process, will equally transform the future of public service in Nigeria in a positive manner.’’
President Buhari, therefore, expressed the hope that lawyers could contribute to another core objective of enhancing the business environment and promoting social justice by promoting respect for the Rule of Law.
He also urged them to contribute to the law reform process and putting national interest and professional ethics above self in the conduct of their business.
“Rule of Law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest.
“Our apex court has had cause to adopt a position on this issue in this regard and it is now a matter of judicial recognition that; where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of society,’’ he added.
Buhari also expressed confidence that the NBA conference would achieve tremendous success, and urged the lawyers to participate actively in its various intellectual and social activities in order to build new bonds and strengthen old relationships.
The president used the opportunity to explain various measures taken by his administration to ensure prudent and accountable management of the nation’s scarce resources.
“Given the enormity of the challenges we inherited and the yearnings of a citizenry earnestly desirous of a new way of running national affairs, our first challenge was to transform our country speedily into a society where impunity in the management of national resources would be replaced with a culture of accountability and transparency.
“We needed to deploy our resources to address our common needs rather than the greed of a callous few.
“In order to achieve this, we have had to disrupt age-old assumptions and unsettle ancient norms in the management of our national patrimony, as you have all witnessed in the last three years,’’ he said.
He further said that the government had made appreciable progress in several sectors, including public awareness of the need to challenge the corrupt and the brazen in across the country.
According to him, the government has also learnt useful lessons on the dynamism of the society.
“However, elements within every society, including some lawyers, can equally become unduly resistant to change, even where it is proven that such change is to serve the interest of the larger society.
“At worst, corruption fights back,’’ he said.
The president congratulated the incoming national executive of the NBA, led by Mr. Paul Usoro, and wished them a successful tenure in the task of advancing legal practice in Nigeria.