Paul Usoro, SAN

* We recognise only Onnoghen as CJN, NBA declares

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), after its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Monday in Abuja, resolved to embark on a `two-day warning boycott’ of courts nationwide.

The NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro, who made the announcement after the meeting, said that the lawyers reached the agreement to drive home their displeasure of the suspension of Onnoghen without due process.

”The decision of NEC is that, to show the displeasure of the body of lawyers with regards to what has happened so far, it has been decided by the NBA NEC that lawyers should go on a two-day boycott of courts nationwide.

”That is from tomorrow, Tuesday Jan. 29 and also Wednesday, Jan. 30, all lawyers should stay away from courts.

”This is to register the discontent of the NBA with the incident that has happened, and the fact that due process was not followed with regards to the matter of the Chief Justice of Nigeria,” Usoro said.

The NBA president also said that the association had set up a committee made up of two past presidents and himself to dialogue with their colleagues in government and let them understand the association’s position.

He said it was basically to make them understand the necessity to properly guide government on the need to follow due process in whatever decisions it took.

”We also stressed the need to emphasise to our colleagues who are in government that they have a responsibility to promote and preserve the rule of law and make sure the principles that our legal profession is founded upon are respected by government,” he said.

He said that the committee would be expected to report back to the general body within the next one week.

Usoro further said that the NBA NEC also directed that based on the progress made by the committee, the boycott of courts could be resuscitated after the two days.

He said there would be no need to sanction lawyers for flaunting the directive as the preponderance of responses from lawyers on the issue was to emphasise that the rule of law was important.

He reiterated that the NBA NEC made it clear that the issue was not personalised.

”It is not because Justice Onnoghen is the one that is involved and it is not because of where he comes from or his religion or his politics, if he has any.

”It is the principle of it and that principle is held sacrosanct by all lawyers and to that extent, what the NBA NEC expects is that everyone will comply with that directive,” Usoro said.

According to him, NEC also underscores that individuals impacted by government’s decisions can go to court to seek redress.

”The principle of it is what the NBA cannot simply stand by and not get involved in making sure that the principle is underscored.

”This is because the fallout from some of these actions go beyond the individual involved and affects our structure as a democratic society as well as our governance and our practice.

”So it is necessary to reinforce the principle in the minds of those who govern us not only for the protection of NBA members but also for the protection of members of the bench, who generally do not have a voice.

”The security of their tenure needs to be respected, and if we start a process that undermines that security at the federal level, sooner than later, it will be picked up and replicated at the state level,” the NBA president said.

He said the NBA was hopeful that the government would see reason with the NBA and allow the rule of law to prevail.

On whether Onnoghen should resign or not, he said that that was an option that Onnoghen would have to exercise by himself and not a call to be made by the NBA.

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