Following the rampant incidences of abuse of court processes by lawyers in the country, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, has charged the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to discipline its members who indulge in unprofessional conduct.
He said the act is inimical to the smooth administration of justice in the country and brings the judiciary to ridicule even as he called for tough disciplinary measures against such offending lawyers.
Speaking while declaring open the 2021 Annual General Conference AGC of the NBA in Port Harcourt, Monday, Justice Mohammed, said the association should also take the lead in demanding discipline and dedication of its members to the efficient administration of justice in all ramifications of the court.
Making reference to the theme of the conference, “Take the Lead”, the CJN urged the Bar to always rise to the defence of the bench at all times, noting that a situation where members of the bar join litigants in assaulting the bench and ridiculing the institution of the courts was condemnable.
Justice Mohammed highlighted some of the problems of the administration of justice in the country as procedural inefficiency and poor infrastructure while quoting a former CJN, Justice Mustapha.
He added others like the poor condition of service of judicial and non-judicial officers, poor intellectual quality and corruption, among many others, saying they “have all served to disrupt the efficiency of the judiciary and damaged its perception.”
He declared that some of the challenges demanded the cooperation of the bar to address even as he charged members of the bar in government offices to “see the urgency and take the lead in the crusade to address the issues.”
In his address, Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, also charged the NBA to transform and reform “to an activist association willing and ready to use the law to advance the values and aspirations of our profession and the progress of society as a positive social force for change with courage and determination.”
He described it as one of the major ways for the association to demonstrate its readiness to “Take the Lead”.
“Taking the lead is to reclaim and uphold the values of the profession we once held; to have the courage to challenge what is wrong and unjust; to break free from tired traditions and status quo of the system; to question the motives and rightness of unfair and inequitable governmental actions and decisions; as well as to take appropriate and bold steps to eliminate the increasing costs, delays and drudgery of our criminal justice system.
“Taking the lead is to embrace the truth and having no patience for injustice; no tolerance for bad governance, and having no sympathy for political leaders who fail their citizens or for timid and incompetent judicial officers who betray their judicial oath with wrong and conscienceless judgements.”
The governor added: “I do hope and pray that from this conference the NBA will reawaken to its responsibility as the trustee of our legal system, resolve to guard against the easy slide into passivity and find the courage and inspiration to fight for good governance, democracy, judicial independence and the rule of law as the identities and traditions of our country through positive activism. This is the mission of our profession and vigilance is the price of liberty.”
He explained that since the birth of this nation, Nigerians have relied on the law and the legal system to settle disputes, prevent crime, promote democracy, protect human rights and regulate virtually all aspects of both private and public life.
Wike lamented that the NBA has focused less on promoting and fighting for the values of good governance, democracy, judicial independence, human rights and the rule of law.
“On a daily basis the economic, social and political rights, including the rights to personal security, freedom of speech, association, dissent and peaceful protests, as well as the right to personal liberty are being violated with impunity by the present central administration and its security apparatus,” the governor noted among other challenges the NBA should rise up against.