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‘Paper tiger’ Nigerian lawyers unhappy as Gov. Wike ridicules profession

Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, President, Olumide Akpata, has attacked Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, over a comment credited to him, in which he noted that the NBA has become a “paper tiger,” which has failed in its responsibility to protect the judiciary in Nigeria and rescue it from political intimidation.

Akpata in a statement, yesterday, said: “As President of the NBA, it is not usual for me to respond to criticisms regarding the activities or performance of the NBA, and indeed our philosophy has been to welcome all such criticisms and take useful lessons, therefrom.

“But I am unable to allow Wike make such baseless allegations against the NBA particularly as he is a senior member of the legal profession, who will be presumed by many to be speaking from a position of knowledge.

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“It is indeed quite ironic that Governor Wike made these unfortunate statements at an event held in honour of the Justice Mary 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.”

“Also fresh in our collective memories is the NBA’s defence of Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, who was wrongly excoriated by Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State after an unfavourable judgment was entered against him. The NBA’s defence of the Judiciary in that case would later result in an almost immediate apology by the Governor.

“One does not suggest that there isn’t room for the NBA to do more in maintaining and defending the integrity and independence of the Judiciary, but it would be mean-spirited to make such far-reaching and ridiculing statement about the NBA, at least given its engagements and activities in defence of the Judiciary since August 2020 when the current leadership assumed office. The NBA would continue to do all that it can to defend the Judiciary, the rule of law and indeed, Nigeria’s democracy. We will not pass that buck.”

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