My Festering Grouse With NBA
After the National Nigerian Bar Association ended its NEC meeting held last Monday in Abuja, the news of the Association’s resolution hit the airwaves like the dictionary definition of a hailstorm, directing a nationwide protest and two-day boycott of all courts in the country in protest over the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Suddenly, a strangeness of happenstance within became mirrored by a strangeness of happenstance without. Controversy became NBA’s cunning disguise; confusion, its weapon of war, and constant confoundment its amulet.
At the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, for instance, an exchange of blows amongst the lawyers was reported. There was a gabbled noise of solidarity within the court premises while those who could sing sang with unabashed glee and false notes. Many lawyers had to go out of the court premises with the speed of robbers, some abandoning their cars! According to a falsified news-reporting later unfalsified, a lawyer got smashed in the jaw by his colleague and felt bone seem, with surprise, to change its place. In a different velleity, two other lawyers were flung to the bare sand while the attacker rolled them over and over with his foot like fish for the frying.
I am sure NBA got a tick-off for this one. This is one of the issues over which we lawyers who are ministers of the court which is the temple of justice should exercise caution and not turn the courts premises into some sort of public square, where court proceedings are disrupted like situations that could only be associated with the barbaric level associated with the Middle Ages. NBA should be seen as a voluntary Association and the prerogative to comply with the boycott or not should have been allowed to rest with each lawyer.
The matters under discussion, considered in the light of the NBA directive, even become one of a considerable gravity when seen from the vantage point of the provision of the Nigerian constitution, which guarantees freedom of association. And what about a lawyer’s duty to the client who pays his bills? When in defiance of the directive, a court still sits, does a lawyer have to be in obedience to the courts or to the Association? Meseems every lawyer has a duty to his clients to attend to, and dispose of, their cases diligently. Again, boycott or resorting to street actions on a matter that is before the court is a deviation from the fundamental principles that define the fulcrum of the legal profession and, in my poor opinion, a veiled display of some sort of roguish tendencies.
My head echoes with a harrowing refrain thinking about the bizarre, exotic and serio-comic situations we are faced with now in the Nigerian legal arena!