One of the things that scare most lawyers is police harassment and harassment by paramilitary agencies.
Law used to be a profession in which you were guaranteed almost free passage because of the respect that we command. For reasons that we must deal with decisively, this respect has disappeared. Lawyers now appear almost to be targets for most of our average agencies.
What I think we must do to address this is to engage the leadership of those agencies. We must go beyond just talking. We must engage with them proactively and get them to rein in the officers that are engaged in these activities.
But in addition to that, we must use the tools that are best used by lawyers. We must use the Courts. And in order to use the Courts effectively, we need to get our judiciary to work with us. It is part of what I say when I talk about a UNITED BAR.
The profession is one, the Bar and the Bench. Any time a lawyer is manhandled or maltreated in the course of performing his duties, it is an assault on the entire profession. When I had the opportunity to speak at the Bar and Bench Forum at the law week of the Calabar Branch, of the Nigerian Bar Association, I made this point. I said to their Lordships, the Judges, that “every time a matter comes before you in which a lawyer has been maltreated in the course of his duties, you should grant this matters not only accelerated hearing but you should take a particular interest in these matters and make sure that you impose punitive damages.”
It is only by so doing that we can put a deterrent in place that will stop these paramilitary agencies from treating lawyers with the disdain and disrespect that has become the order of the day now.
We need to all unite to make our profession better.
Finally, just like in my last mail, I urge you to ensure that you and those around you complete your verification so that you can play your part in creating a better and UNITED BAR.
Let’s do better.
Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, SAN FCIArb