On Friday 1st of December, 2017, Olufemi Ajiboso Esq. took to social media (his Facebook page) to complain about the inhuman treatment meted out on him by the men of the Nigerian Police Force. In his post, he alleged that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) ordered his arrest for writing a letter on behalf of his client over a business transaction.
In a swift reaction to the outcry of Ajiboso, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN (“Teacher”) through a letter under his hand brought the alleged incident to the attention of the President of the NBA. You would recall that Teacher has been penciled as one of the prospective candidate for the office of the President of the NBA in the 2018 NBA National Elections.
As much as Ajiboso’s alleged ordeal in the hands of the police is receiving sympathy, the letter written by Teacher is generating a lot of reactions from different quarters. Some have questioned the audacity of Teacher in bringing Ajiboso’s story to the attention of the NBA President. They wondered if Teacher’s insinuation is that the Leadership of the Bar is not responsive and needs a nudge to perform its roles. Some have queried the sincerity in the intentions behind the letter. They consider the letter as part of Teahcer’s publicity strategy and a ploy to gain political point. Some have openly asked if the harassment against laywers by the men of the Nigerian Police Force is the only burning issues which needs the attention of the NBA President. Why did Teacher not chronicle all the issues he prefers the President should address? The reactions are indeed diverse.
Beyond the arguments for and against the letter written by Teacher, a few things are cardinal. To start with, the “Bar Man” Teacher has identified with the plight of a legal practitioner. Also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Professor of Law has officially written to the President of the Bar to look into the plight of lawyers particularly as it relates to the harassment suffered by lawyers in the hands of policemen. This fact is sacrosanct and no amount of insinuation and criticism can take the place of fact. The issue relating to whether the present or past NBA administration has taken the general welfare of lawyers as priority is also one that would generate a lot of sentiment depending on the side of the divide one is coming from. What is important is that we identify facts and important issues even when they arise from political views or propaganda. A prospective contender for the post of the President of the NBA has given a hint on what he (would) stand for in terms of respect for legal practitioners.
Can we go beyond this to identify how to ensure there is no reoccurrence for the sake of all of us. We can only wish that “Teacher” (and I dare say, any other person who feels nudged) would spare more time to write more letters to the President of the NBA appealing that other areas bothering lawyers are addressed urgently. After all, it is not yet time for electioneering, when the time comes, we would appropriately situate the issues.
The right of every individuals and especially lawyers in the community of lawyers to express their views on issues must at all times be respected.