Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike has said that judges are under political pressure to please some vested interests in the country.
Wike stated this on Monday at the 61st Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Conference in Port Harcourt, adding that no excellence can be achieved in the nation’s judicial system.
He asked Nigerian lawyers to engage in judicial activism, noting that it is a deliberate measure to address the slow dispensation of justice, and attempts to stifle the rights of the citizenry.
The governor also berated the Nigeria Bar Association for focusing less on promoting and fighting for the values of good governance, democracy, judicial independence, human rights and the rule of law when there is urgent need for them to do so.
According to Wike, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and security apparatus have violated the rights of the citizens.
“The invasion on personal liberty has been brazen and indiscriminate, such that even judges of the superior courts, including Supreme Court justices, have in the recent past been victims of midnight assaults on their premises and subjection to unlawful arrests and imprisonments,” Wike said.
“Never in our political history has Nigeria been so badly governed and denied of good governance with the federal government woefully failing in its basic duties to provide for the wellbeing and security of its own citizens as we have experienced in the last six years.
“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.
“Lately, the new devious trend is to tag security risks to innocent Nigerians and opposition elements and use the Immigration Authority to seize their international passports without a prior court order.”
Speaking further, Wike said it was time for everybody to work collectively towards building a strong legal system that is well-resourced, independent and effective in the administration of justice.
The governor added that his administration has built, rebuilt, furnished and equipped old and new courthouses, including the Rivers State High Court, the Federal High Court, the National Industrial Court and the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt.
He noted that the Rivers State Government is also spending N16 billion to build the Nabo Graham-Douglas Nigerian Law School campus in Port Harcourt.
In his remarks, the Chief Justice Of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad charged the NBA to lead the crusade to address the poor condition of service of national judicial officers.
He observed that administration of justice is being hampered by assault that litigants, especially politicians and some lawyers, launch on the judiciary when their ends are not met.
Justice Muhammad was represented at the event by Justice Mary Odili.
While urging the NBA to also take measures to discipline its erring members who do not only ridicule the judiciary but also abuse its processes, Justice Muhammad noted that as Nigeria faces the challenges of kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, agitations for secession and resource control.
He believes the peace of the country now rests on the balance of the scale of justice.
Also speaking, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukuh, said it has been difficult to review the nation’s constitution in a manner that meets the current aspirations of Nigerians because of the poor quality of those saddled with such responsibility.
According to him, any tenable constitution should be one that provides a mirror for each Nigerians to recognise him or herself as a citizen and not as an instrument that distributes favours to vested interests, sections or tribes.
“Our politicians must become very careful and more circumspect. If we are going to take a lesson away from Boko Haram, from banditry, from where we find ourselves now, is that there is an urgent need for politicians to become more restraint in their involvement with religion. Because their religious identity remains a very troubling identity,” he said.
Bishop Kukah wondered about the usefulness of having 120,000 membership on NBA list that cannot be harnessed to provide the leadership that is required to save the country from the quagmire of having a workable constitution for Nigeria.
He said Nigerians suffer identity crisis because politics have been immersed in religion and making it difficult to have legal system that can address all issues and promote freedom and justice without any form of discrimination.