The Nigerian Bar Association has reacted to the comments by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, saying the governor and 2023 presidential aspirant is forgetful and should not use the lawyers’ association for his political ambition.
Wike had earlier in the week said the NBA failed in its responsibility to protect the judiciary in Nigeria and rescue it from political intimidation.
The governor had spoken during the book presentation in honour of retired Justice Mary Odili as part of activities marking her retirement from the Supreme Court and her 70th birthday celebration in Port Harcourt.
He had disagreed with some speakers, who blamed politicians for the judiciary’s challenges during a valedictory court session organised in honour of Odili.
Reacting, the NBA National President, Mr Olumide Akpata, said Wike’s allegation is baseless and such was not expected from a senior colleague who was abreast with the activities of the union.
Akpata said, “My attention has been drawn to a statement credited to the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike. It is indeed quite ironic that Governor Wike made these unfortunate statements at an event held in honour of the Honourable Justice Mary Peter-Odili in support of whom, the NBA stood firm in the face of that brazen attack on her home in Abuja by some persons who are now standing trial in our law courts.
“That Governor Wike has chosen so quickly, to either forget or ignore this and other actions of the NBA in support of the Judiciary is suggestive of a dissonance that is most disconcerting and should give one serious cause for concern.
"It is very convenient for Governor Wike to ask Nigerian lawyers (as he did at the Book Launch) to emulate their apparently more courageous Pakistani colleagues when the issues at stake do not concern him directly, but when in 2019 the very same Nigerian lawyers had the "temerity" to question his handling of the security situation in Rivers State and threatened to boycott the Courts if there was no abatement of the rising insecurity in the State, he was only too quick to lambast the lawyers and to withdraw his "support" for the NBA in the State.
“While we understand that Governor Wike is currently on the political soapbox and, like a man with the proverbial new hammer, to whom any and everything is a nail, he will latch unto any chance to sell his candidacy, he cannot and should not be allowed to use the NBA as fodder of any sort for his vaulting ambition.
"The politico-legal history of Nigeria is replete with the commendable role that the NBA has played, and continues to play, as a primary defender of the rule of law and protector of the Judiciary in Nigeria. While the NBA might have at different points dithered in playing these roles, the NBA is not known to have shirked that responsibility in recent times.
"Our commitment to defend the judiciary and its integrity has remained unshaken and the NBA has been making spirited efforts to discharge that responsibility creditably in the less than two years since this administration of the NBA assumed office. Illustrative examples abound to drive home this point, and three well-known examples remain fresh in the consciousness of Nigerians and constitute recent history that cannot be rewritten even by a personality of Governor Wike's calibre.”