There has been clamour by some lawyers calling for a mass protest of lawyers and shut down of courts across the nation to show dissatisfaction and grievances against the purported suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria-herein after referred to as the CJN- by the Code of Conducts Tribunal. Then, I was forced to ask myself why must lawyers jointly protest and courts shut down on this occasion?! That is why this paper is asking this question.
First and foremost, I had said it in one of my recent articles on the subject matter of this issue of suspension that it was the Code of Conducts Tribunal-herein after referred to as the CCT- that directed the suspension of the CJN- Onnoghen and not the President. Nevertheless, I had refused to comment on the propriety or otherwise of the said Order made upon a purported motion ex-parte allegedly made by the Code of Conducts Bureau-herein after referred to as the CCB, for the facts that the matter is a subject matter of litigation which is sub-judice, as I fear that an attempt to deliberate on this subject might likely delve into the issues before the Court, more so, the position of law on an ex-parte application that is made pending the hearing of motion on notice, the motion on notice which in this case, is yet to be decided by the CCT.
Now, on my question, why is it that it is when the Honourable, the CJN is allegedly suspended that some lawyers then see the need to lodge protests across the nation?! Why is it on this occasion that some lawyers see the need to shut down courts across the nation?! But I do not think that it is all lawyers that support these acts! With due respect to these lawyers, I ask: why was there no mass protest when some lawyers were kidnapped at various localities across the nation?! Why were courts not shut down on those occasions?! Some if not all those kidnapped and or killed among the members of the bar were financial members of the bar, having paid their annual practice fees and the Branch dues as at when due. Why were lawyers not concerned about their loss and or their plight and that of their family members?! Were those members of the bar not important to us?! At least, they were important to their family members, that I know! So, there have been several occasions that we as lawyers ought to have advised ourselves on the seriousness of our roles in the protection of the rule of law, equality before the law, constitutionality, upholding the cause of justice and the need to be a defender of the common man in the society.
Personally, I feel, as lawyers, we do not need to input sentiments and being politically influenced in our roles as lawyers to this nation. Lodging a mass protests and shutting down courts across the nation would have been taking the issue too far! I equally fear that such action does not lead to a counter-action or a counter-protest from colleagues in the legal profession or the members of the society or some political members or touts. I have also held the views that the scenario at the moment is not a war against the judiciary or a struggle between the executive and the judiciary, as it is rather, an issue between the independence of the National Judicial Council and the CCB. So, we as lawyers, we need to ensure that the CJN is well represented whether on paid legal services or pro-bono to ensure that he gets justice and to ensure that the due process of the law is complied with just as we represent an ordinary common man in the society who requires the legal services of the bar and this is what the Nigerian Bar Association is established to perform as functions and this function is to: members of the association; members of the society; including in this case, the CJN, while following the due process of the law and without resorting to self-help to confront the government as two wrongs do not make a right.
So, what I canvass is for those members of the bar to unite to give their relentless supports for their client that they are representing in this matter, i.e. the CJN, so that the engagement in mass protests and shutting down of the courts would not affect law and order in the nation and raising fears in the common man across the nation. Also, care needs to be taken so that the attempt is not hijacked by some political giants and sentiments of some members of the bar to lead to confrontation with the government of the Federation.
I have said all these not out of any sentiment or political affiliation rather, with all senses of righteousness, sincerity, honesty and humility.
Finally, I urge each and every one of us as lawyers to reason, thoughtful about our actions, be guided by the rule of law and democracy. We should also consider the likely plight of the common man in the society if there is likelihood of break-down of law and order across the nation. More so, as the adage says that ‘it is only the beginning of war that is known and no one knows its end’. And a word they say, is enough for the wise! Just a word of caution!