I have had cause to speak and write at various times about the demeaning travesty that has gradually become a sustained trend in recent time in Nigeria. This travesty has been grossly tolerated for so long that it has now in my estimation reached an intolerable height that the Bar must devise a more practicable tactical mode of engaging the on-the-loose irresponsible officers who are giving the security agencies and indeed Nigeria as a country the toga of “the bastion of impunity’.
The recent viral video where someone who claimed to be a lawyer was seen being manhandled and assaulted by some custom officers in an attempt to detain him for an offence that was not even explained to him despite repeated demands by the fellow to know what he has done wrong was nothing short of a despicable scenario. We have severally complained about the incessant hostilities against legal practitioners by officers of most of the security agencies in the country, Custom officers have now joined the rank of such ill-mannered uniform wearing aggressors. The Military, Nigerian Police, EFCC and security agencies have been involved in reported cases of harassment of lawyers at various times. Recently, two female lawyers, one of whom is an associate in my office were arrested and detained by some police officers at FCID Alagbon, Lagos over a landlord and tenant related matter. By the way, a fundamental rights enforcement suit has just been filed on the matter.
I am cognisance of the existence of NBA-SARC, a committee set up by the NBA President and Chaired by Chief J. K Gadzama SAN to deal with cases of harassment of lawyers in the course of discharging their professional duties. While I commend the laudable efforts of NBA in this regard, I am however of the view that we should go beyond being responsive and rather become more proactive in our approach to this demeaning trajectory. It is time for all Nigerian lawyers under the direction of NBA to rise in defence of the nobility of the legal profession, the collective dignity and integrity of all Nigerian lawyers and indeed the preservation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights to human dignity and personal liberty of all Nigerians. We must therefore shake the table and get our voices heard louder and clearer. Our failure to attack this monstrous trend with the commensurate force necessary to eliminate it could result in a state of cul-de-sac that may become irredeemable and catastrophic, as the citizenry may invariably begin to boycott the services of the undefended/unprotected lawyers to defend their interest going forward.
Even as that day beckons, it is still my prayer that may the day never come.
Past National Welfare Secretary, NBA