Onnoghen: Lagos lawyers shun NBA’s directive on boycott of courts

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Lagos – Some Lagos lawyers who had cases fixed for hearing on Tuesday came to court in defiance of directive issued by the National Bar Association (NBA) asking lawyers to boycott courts for two days.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Federal Government had on Jan. 25 suspended the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, from office over his failure to declare his assets as required of every public servant.
Government had acted on a motion exparte granted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal and replaced Onnoghen with Justice Tanko Mohammed as an acting CJN.
Consequently, NBA at its National Executive Council meeting held on Jan. 28 adopted a resolution asking members to boycott courts over what they tagged illegal suspension of the CJN.
NAN judiciary correspondent who went round courts in Lagos, including the Igbosere High Courts and Magistrates’ Courts, to monitor the situation, reports that the courts sat, proceedings went on and lawyers were in court.
However, the Court of Appeal Lagos did not sit because, according to the workers, the court was observing its conference week.
Some of the lawyers told NAN that they could not obey the directive because they owe it as a duty first to be in court to represent their clients who pay their fees.
One of the lawyers, Mr Daniel Idibia, a Lagos-based lawyer, said: “I have to respect the man who pays my fees, my clients; NBA on the other hand takes money from me.
“I pay my practicing fees, my Bar Association dues; those are monies coming from my clients.
`What will I tell my clients whose case is coming up today if I boycott court, will I say that NBA says I should not come to court, will that pay my fees?
“In law there is a saying, when two competing priorities are equal the first in time prevails. I have gotten a date for my clients’ case before NBA boycott date; therefore my client’s case supersedes that of NBA.”
He however advised NBA not to step into the arena of politics rather the association should strictly deal on matters relating to law.
Idibia also noted that the CJN had admitted that he made a mistake by not declaring his foreign assets in the Code of Conduct form.
He said that the CJN should have stepped aside after admitting the mistake due to the position he held in law.
“To me, nobody is invading the judiciary, if we are to fight corruption, it should start from lawyers.
“We are not going to fight corruption in abstraction. If this matter had happened to an ordinary civil servant, it will not be heard. The person would have been tried by the Code of Conduct Tribunal,” Idibia said.
Another lawyer, Miss Amaka Agbazu, said that she did not comply with the NBA directive because the association had not been fair to young lawyers whose rights were trampled upon.
“Last year we heard that a young lawyer was attacked by the police but NBA did not do anything about it, now they are calling for boycott because it is CJN.
“So, if it’s the CJN or any of the senior lawyers the whole judiciary should stand still.
“What is happening might not be right apparently because procedure has not been followed but right of everybody should be put into consideration.
“Lawyers are in court and proceedings are going on, nobody was prevented from entering the court or sent out of court,” Agbazu told NAN.
In his own opinion, Mr Jude Ozemhoya, said lawyers should respect the resolution as issued by the NBA.
“I came to court because of the pressure from my client who is facing a criminal charge whom I cannot leave alone and subject him to the whims and caprices of the prosecution.
“However, some of my colleagues believe that NBA’s decision is political be it that the Senate has approached the Supreme Court for the interpretation of the affected sections of the law.
“NBA should have waited for the apex court’s decision,” Ozemhoya said.

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