The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN have all condemned the verbal abuse on a Federal High Court Judge, Honourable Justice Ekwo by the Nigerian Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Mr. Timipre Sylva.
While commenting on the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting at Yenegoa wherein the Court delivered a judgment in the case filed by Senator Heineken Lokpobri and cancelled the Bayelsa State APC Primaries, Mr. Timipre Sylva made some defamatory remarks about the person of the Honourable Judge of the Federal High Court who presided over the case. Mr. Sylva was unsparing in his insult on the learned trial Judge whom he called a “bad egg that deserves to be flushed out of the judiciary”. In another radio programme he was quoted to have variously described the judge as a “harlot”.
Condemning the insults, the NBA in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, noted that the statement made by Mr. Sylva is most unfortunate, uncalled for and unbecoming of a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The NBA stated that as a onetime State governor, Mr. Sylva is expected to appreciate the importance of the judiciary as an independent arm of government and the need to accord respect and dignity to the courts.
In another statement Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN called on the NBA to demand for the resignation/sack of the Minister of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timipre Sylva. “Nigerian Bar Association should call for the resignation/sack of Minister Silva if he publicly called a Judge a harlot because she gave a judgment unfavorable to his interest”.
On his part, Mr. Adegboruwa SAN stated:
“Just tonight, on prime time television (Channels) programme monitored by me in Lagos, the Hon Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr Timipriye Silva, described a sitting judge of the Federal High Court, Yenagoa Division, Hon Justice Ekwo as a “bad egg that deserves to be flushed out of the judiciary”.
I have read earlier in the day that on another radio programme, he variously described him as a “harlot”.
Mr Timipriye Silva is not a party to the case pending before the court and he is not a lawyer to any of the parties. Even at that, it is uncouth and undignified for a serving Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to descend so low in employing gutter language against a sitting judge.
It is the greatest act of contempt against the authority and integrity of the judiciary for a citizen to describe a judicial officer as a bad egg or a harlot, all because a judgment was delivered by the said judge which is considered unfavorable and for which an appeal has already been filed.
We cannot sit by and watch this flagrant desecration of the temple of justice by people who should serve as role models for others.
I therefore urge the Nigerian Bar Association, the National Judicial Council and the Hon Chief Justice of Nigeria, to proceed against Mr Timipriye Silva urgently, until such a time that he is able to purge himself of the contempt brazenly committed against His Lordship, in the due exercise of a judicial function.”
The NBA urges the judiciary to do the needful to protect its sanctify, integrity and honour by dealing decisively with cases of open contempt, without delay.
The NBA went further in its statement to urge the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami,SAN , as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation not to be seen to encourage disrespect to the courts, by always do the needful in protecting the sanctity and respect for the decisions of courts and judicial officers.
Speaking further the NBA stated: “Nigerians (particularly political actors) must recognise that courts are necessary and vital instruments for entrenching social equilibrium and justice in a society. NBA therefore advises members of the various political parties to be well guided in their utterances concerning matters pending before or decided by courts. Politicians must not drag the courts and judicial officers into their dirty arena of bickering, name-calling and mudslinging.”
“As a Bar, we shall resist any attempt by the political class to subject judges and judicial institutions to public ridicule and opprobrium. We do this in recognition of the fact that the protection of the independence and respect for the judiciary is necessary for a peaceful, orderly and united Nigeria.”