Dear NBA Presidential Aspirants,
While you prepare your manifestos and road map on what you would do for the Nigerian Lawyers, kindly spare a thought on this canker worm eating deep into the legal profession. “Police brutality and harassment of members of the Noble Profession”.
It’s painful to note that in this part of the world, a lawyer attending a police station in a bid to free his client wrongfully detained, will be confused as to the best approach to employ while talking to a policeman, in order not to incur the wrath of the said police officer. The least of what you get as a lawyer the moment the police feels unhappy by your approach would be to be walked out of the station. You would be grateful to leave the police station unscathed. Otherwise, be rest assured that you would go home with a broken limb or better still have lawyers mount a “free a lawyer campaign all over social media to force the police to release you from detention for attending the police station as part of your legal job as a lawyer.
A lawyer would get to the police station, and start by asking a police officer, irrespective of his rank; “how is your family? how are you doing? how is work? I hope your enjoying? Your children must be enjoying etc…” All in a bid to “water the ground” so as not to get the police officer worked up. No matter the rank of the officer, you must have to have your tail under your leg to be treated like a human being. It becomes worse when you are a young lawyer.
In most cases, even with the above courtesies, these police officers would still ask you in the most embarrassing manner to go and wait outside. That waiting outside may be for hours, it all depends on their convenient and on who’s bidding they are doing regarding your client.
The legal profession in Nigeria is going through these level of oppression and intimidation and those who are supposed to take steps to stop it are either paying lip service to it or not doing anything at all. There was a time, I recall during the early tenure of the present NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro when news filtered in that he was going to engage the Inspector General of Police to find a lasting solution to this issue. That news remained in the realm of news. Nothing concrete was done again and the harassment and intimidation continues. As a young lawyer, going to the police station to secure the release of a client has become one of the most tedious assignment. You would be tutored, advised, encouraged and cajoled into becoming humble before going to the station and even after all of that, a little assertion of your right brings down the anger of the officer and earns you either a black eye or detention. This has go to stop!
This is the legal profession, we are lawyers, we pride ourselves as members of the noblest profession. Yet, we are vilified by the police who ordinarily should be our partners in justice delivery. Most painfully, our seniors and those who hold position of influence do not see this as an urgent matter that needs to be tackled. What am I saying, even the older ones are not left out. This has gone beyond just issuing statement. There is need for a concerted effort from stakeholders in the legal profession. This issue must and should be treated as an emergency .
A lawyer should be able to firmly and courteously demand for the release of his client. He studied law and has the privilege of knowing the rules and should be allowed when it is necessary to even quote relevant statutory positions. But presently, if you want the police to deal with you ruthlessly, attend a police station and attempt to quote relevant provisions of the law. In fact, you are expected to pretend as if you are not aware that your client’s right is being infringed upon. You are supposed to act like a lay person, put all your legalese inside your pocket and go cap in hand to the police station. When you get there, beg, plead, kneel down if possible to be able to have the police cooperate with you and ensure that you come back to the office with your shirt still white. Any thing outside that would be tragic. Yet, lawyers continue to see this as normal.
The danger of all of us keeping quiet is that these, makes a mockery of the noble profession. Clients now imagine how lawyers are treated like suspects by security agents and would rather pay their way out than seek the service of a lawyer. What is more, security agents now disobeys Court orders with impunity or pick and choose which order(s) to obey. Yet all of us in the profession keeps cool as if all is well.
Hell no! All is absolutely not well. Lawyers face so much humiliation and it is not right. It is time for stakeholders to take the plight of lawyers in the hands of policemen seriously. It is time for those who are being humiliated to speak out.
We demand that all NBA presidential aspirants tell us how they intend to tackle this problem if elected. We should not be carried away by all the noise over irrelevancies. We are not asking that you tackle the issue of minimum wages, (we know you cannot do that) we only need to be protected while we take steps to also build and grow through the ladder.
These humiliations should stop. Nigerian lawyers demand what is reasonable from our leaders. Quit playing the political games like the average Nigerian politicians. Let us engage our prospective leaders on issues that affect us.
Let us engage the aspirants on constructive issues
Please, broadcast if you support this fight.