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RULE OF LAW AND THE LEADERSHIP CRISIS IN NIGERIA’S JUDICIARY

31 January 2019

1. On behalf of the NBA National Executive Committee (“NEC”), I write to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to all our members for the overwhelming support that the NBA NEC received from you in regard to the boycott of Courts that was mandated by NEC at its Emergency Meeting held on 28 January 2019. Reports from the Chairmen of our Branches across the country confirmed overwhelming compliance with the NEC directives on the two-day court boycott on 29 and 30 January 2019. There were of course pockets of non-compliance in some Branches, but these were isolated incidents and in the extreme minority.

2. The overarching principle that informed and underpinned the NBA NEC decision is of course the promotion and protection of the Rule of Law. This overriding principle is characterized in and by the subset principles that dictate the separation of powers between the 3 arms of government, consistent adherence to due process and the non-negotiable independence of the judiciary. As they relate to the NBA NEC Resolution at its Emergency Meeting afore-referenced, these principles find application in the purported removal and trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (“CCT”) of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable Mr. Justice Walter S N Onnoghen, CJN.

3. Those principles are immutable and serve as anchor for our profession, justice administration and indeed our democracy. They are far larger than and are applicable beyond Onnoghen CJN’s present circumstance and issues. They constitute the essence of our being, as the Nigerian Bar Association and as lawyers. These are non-partisan, abiding values that are blind to religious, ethnic and/or political persuasions, colourations and considerations. The decisions of NBA NEC at its afore-referenced Emergency Meeting were based on these ennobling and enduring principles and not on any partisan or parochial premises.

4. In that regard, all the Resolutions of the NBA NEC at its afore-referenced Emergency Meeting remain extant and binding on all of us. We continue to call on the Executive arm of the FGN to reverse its various actions against the CJN and stop his trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Furthermore, and in compliance with the NBA NEC’s additional directives, the 3-man Committee of our Association made up of Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR SAN, Abubakar B Mahmoud, OON SAN and my humble self, has been at work and will be updating members on its efforts to actualize the NBA NEC’s mandate to the Committee.

5. Finally, I must strongly deprecate the attitude of some of our members who not only defied but encouraged open defiance of the NBA NEC directives on the boycott of courts. Our profession is anchored on discipline and NBA NEC is the highest decision-making body of our Association. It speaks ill of us as a body and of the state of our discipline as lawyers when some of our members openly encourage disobedience of NBA NEC decisions. This attitude and behavior must stop, please. We may hold opinions that are different from the collective decisions of NBA NEC but once those decisions are made at that highest level of our Association, we are all bound thereby and must comply therewith.

6. Long live the Nigerian Bar Association. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Paul Usoro, SAN
President

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