The President of the Nigeria Bar Association, Paul Usoro, has accused the Muhammadu Buhari administration of trampling on the rule of law.
Usoro, who is accused of fraudulently receiving N1.4 billion from the Akwa Ibom State government, said this in a New Year message delivered on behalf of the association.
Usoro who emerged NBA president in an election tainted with various controversies, was accused by the anti-graft agency, EFCC, of conspiring with officials of the Akwa Ibom State government to divert the said sum. The senior lawyer has, however, explained that the money was payment for legal services offered to the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, and the state government.
In a New Year message published by a national daily, Usoro accused the federal government of “threatening the rule of law by attacking judicial officials from the bar and the bench.”
“In our country, the rule of law suffers degradation in multiple ways. The rule of law is trampled upon when there is no access to justice or when such access is denied, not well defined or is constrained, stifled or impaired howsoever.
“The rule of law is threatened when the practice of law, whether at the Bar or on the Bench, is brought under siege by agencies of state through their actions and/or inactions,” Usoro said.
The trial of the NBA president has attracted various reactions from lawyers.
While some affiliates of Usoro view the move as a plan to attack the legal body, other lawyers say the ethics of the profession are clear on where the source of payments should come from, for legal services rendered.
Usoro also described the failure of the government to obey court judgment as an outright subjugation of the rule of law.
“The rule of law suffers subjugation when the rights of our people are trampled upon, whether in terms of rights abuses or brazen disobedience of court orders and judgments.
The president, Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been condemned by human rights activists for its refusal to comply with court orders for the release of former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
The government was also condemned for detaining Shiite leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaki for over two years without trial, before he was later arraigned, following widespread protests by the Shiite members.
In the recent criticism, Usoro accused the government of failing to provide strong structures to combat abuse of power.
“The rule of law is degraded when we, wittingly or unwittingly, fail to build strong institutions that can stand up to the arbitrariness and abuse of power.
The NBA president said the bar will bar will remain relentless in its efforts to condemn what he described as “undermining practices of government,” as the elections draw near.
Usoro, in the report, called on Nigerians to partake in the general elections and vote in leaders they believe can salvage the country.
“In 2019, we will continue to condemn and beam our searchlights on these undermining practices. Nigerian lawyers must stand as a united and independent Bar against these unwholesome and undemocratic practices. In carrying out this responsibility, we must not be cowed or intimidated howsoever.
“Our role as the voice is even more pronounced and accentuated in this election year. This is the year that we would decide both at the national and states levels, how we wish to be governed and into whose hands we will entrust our affairs and lives.
“The quality of rulers that we will vote into power this year will determine whether we move from a perennially consumption economy into a productive and hopefully an industrialized economy; it would determine whether we would, in our lifetimes, ever be assured of such basic necessities as pervasive energy supply and provision of potable water and primary health care for our citizens.
“The elections of 2019 should and must, therefore, serve as a defining moment for our country. In fulfilling these mandates, we have civic responsibility, as lawyers, to cast our votes and I am hoping that we all have our PVCs ready and available for that all-important assignment.”