Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State at the weekend in Uyo, urged lawyers to rise and defend the rule of law in the country.
He made the call while declaring open the quarterly National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which ended in Uyo, the State capital at the weekend.
He said that: “The NBA is a critical institution in our national fabric today. If not for lawyers, only God knows what those political hawks would have done to us. The NBA is the foremost organization in defense of the rule of law in Nigeria today. Therefore, lawyers should rise up and defend the rule of law.
The Governor stated that a situation where the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) declared someone victorious in an election, only for a report from a Divisional Police Officer ( DPO) to annulled the same election is highly regrettable and without the rule of law, democracy will die in Nigeria.
He urged the NBA to strike out from the Roll of lawyers the names of lawyers who left the profession immediately after their call to the Bar to do some other things apart from law practice, as this will discourage lawyers from leaving the profession for other vocational callings like full time politics.
“Oil prices have been going up while our State revenue allocation has kept dropping, how do we explain this. How do we fund the judiciary and meet other pressing challenges of the States if we don’t structure the economy of Nigeria to stand on solid pedestal. How do we expect democracy to stand without respect for our laws and a strong Federal structure. The NBA needs to get involved to raise national awareness on some of these things.
He stated that with a deep sea port, Akwa Ibom State will dominate the Gulf of Guinea and this is an achievable feat because the State has a deep sea port already and with just one Executive Order for International Oil Companies ( OICs) to remain in their host States where they drill Oil, the economies of the host States will automatically change.
With Executive Order, States will set up an intelligent buildings to accommodate and provide the requisite infrastructural facilities that will drive this change.
Governor Udom condemned the idea of laying pipes with Billions of Naira to take crude oil to refineries while you can conveniently build the same refineries at the crude oil drilling States at a minimal cost. He urged the lawyers to ensure compliance with the local content provision in our laws to enhance human capital and economic development of our people.
The NBA President, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) in his earlier address, commended Akwa Ibom state government for promoting smooth operations of Criminal Justice Administration and making dispensation of justice in the State easy.
Mahmoud said that his leadership of the lawyers umbrella body has succeeded in elevating the NBA as a credible partner for national development.
He said NBA had demonstrated keen interest in national affairs and supported the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.
The NBA president said the association had, in the last few months, pursued the reform of the law profession and tried to enhance the governance framework of the association.
In his remark, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Mr. Uwemedimo Nwoko, called for increased attention to the plight of young lawyers.
He expressed the hope that the Legal Profession Regulation Bill would propose a remuneration and welfare committee to stipulate a minimum wage for young lawyers in private law firms.
The NBA President stated that “Every year nearly 5,000 lawyers enroll at the Supreme Court as Barristers and Solicitors. Straight they plunge into a most challenging professional practice without experience. More often than not, they are forced to confront realities that threaten their public and personal sense of nobility.
“This must be seen for the danger it represents to the profession and collectively addressed as such,” Nwoko said.
The NEC reinstated the leadership of the Section on Legal Practice which has Mrs. Mia Essien as the chairman based on the recommendation of the Yusuf Ali led Committee.
The NEC also agreed to organize the Chief Gani Fawehinmi Human rights award this year together with a lecture on the World Human Rights Day on December 10. The NEC also agreed to resuscitate the NBA Human Rights Committee and get them with all the Sections of the association involved in all the activities of the Bar so that they will be carried along in the affairs of the association.
Mahmoud (SAN) warned all those who want to succeed him that it not good for them to be campaigning at this time. He urged them to soft pedal on their campaigns till he lifts ban on campaigns, stating that he is not interested in who wins the election, but is interested in the continuity of his programmes. He appealed to everybody to help to moderate this situation to give the NBA a credible image.
In his vote of thanks, the General Secretary of the NBA, Aare Isiaka Abiola Olagunju thanked the Governor and his Executive Council for hosting the NEC and assured them that the NBA will not relent in efforts defend the rights of every Nigerian and promotion of the rule of law in the country.
Governor Udom hosted the NEC members to a banquet at the Akwa Ibom Government House where gusets were entertained by Blessing Eka, a very young and talented Saxophonist, the Edom Spirit, the young professionals, the last prophet and Ekemini displays.
The NEC meeting was attended by prominent Bar leaders including former President of the NBA, Onueze Chijinka Joe ( OCJ) Okocha, former General Secretaries Mr. Lawal Ranan ( SAN), Hon. Nimi Walson Jack, Ibrahim Eddy Mark and Mazi Afam Osigwe. Others include Chief Arthur Obi-Okafor ( SAN), Prof. Ernest Ojukwu ( SAN), Mr. Ikeazor Akaraiwe, chairman NBA Section on Business Law, Mr. Olu Apata, Chair SLP Council, Mrs. Mia Essien ( SAN), leader of Jos Bar, G. Ofordile Okafor, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, former Publicity Secretary of the NBA, Mr. Abdulrasheed Muritala Murray and all NBA branch chairmen and secretaries across the country.