PROMOTION OF RULE OF LAW AND GOOD GOVERNANCE
Over the years, the NBA has been in the vanguard of promoting the rule of law and the entrenchment of good governance in Nigeria. This commitment stems not only from the public interest role and motto of the NBA, but also from the constitutive Act of our great Association, the Nigerian Bar Association Constitution, 2015 which stipulates promotion of the rule of law as one of NBA’s core objectives.
Again, traditionally, one of the notable roles of the Bar in a relatively young but bourgeoning democracy as ours is the protection, promotion and maintenance of the Rule of Law at all times. As major stakeholders in the justice delivery sector, we are continually looked up to by the society to be its voice in critical situations. The stories of our heroes past (all of whom I salute very respectfully and may their souls rest well) will bear testimony to the NBA’s very commendable record in discharging these social duties by rising to the occasion when necessary.
There must always be a watchdog that should bark when things go against order and bite when necessary. Our experience as a country and more particularly in recent times shows that governments across board have a tendency to insist on having their way not minding the effects on our social fabrics. Judicial decisions are being disobeyed with impunity sometimes because the government believes the decisions are incorrect and they, the government, would have favoured a different outcome. This is contrary to the doctrine of separation of powers; more often than not, the judiciary ends up at the receiving end of this violation of this all-important doctrine. Executive organs and law enforcement agencies have in recent times been on a free-for-all attack on and violation of human rights including the rights of judicial officers and indeed the judiciary.
Worst of all is that lawyers who embark on protecting their clients have become victims of human rights abuses and have suffered serious infractions of their rights to dignity of the human person and dignity of labour. Again, in recent times, judicial officers have been arrested, harassed, intimidated and prosecuted only for the Courts to resolve the cases against the government. The situation is now so bad that we have a situation where the voice of the society itself, to wit, the legal profession, is being attacked with the intent of shutting its voice and shutting it down. Even the Judges are now facing occupational hazards of a new kind whereby their courtrooms are invaded by thugs and no protection is afforded the judicial officers. One can only imagine the mind-set of a Judge who has been harassed and attacked, whether by thugs or agents of and from the executive branch of the government, when called upon to determine a case involving his attackers and/or their principals.
Bearing in mind these identified problems , it becomes necessary for the NBA considering its critical role in the society, to take quick remedial steps which, under my watch shall include the following steps to safeguard the Rule of Law and Good Governance.
As it relates to Good Governance, the NBA under my leadership shall:
I. Recognize the need to build a credible and effective electoral system. To this end, the NBA will work hard and advocate for the reform of all the institutions that consolidate democracy, with a view to ensuring compliance with the principles of rule of law by all the actors.
II. Develop and execute voter education programme with a view to educating and enlightening legible voters on their role in the 2019 elections. The NBA shall in doing this not lend itself to becoming an appendage of any political party.
III. Develop and execute election monitoring programme. This programme would be used by the NBA to monitor the 2019 elections using NBA Election Working Group.
IV. To monitor election Tribunals as part of a project to be developed and called NBA Electoral Justice Project. This is a project that would be designed to monitor and observe the activities of various elections petitions tribunals, identify the challenges they are facing and advocate for solutions to such challenges as may be identified.
V. Monitor the 2019 general elections with a view to ensuring that the conduct of the elections and participation thereat comply with the principles of rule of law and due process.
VI. Develop programmes and projects relating to Child Justice Administration especially as it relates to adoption and implementation of Child Rights Act at the State level.
VII. Advocate for the strengthening of the legal and institutional framework for Anti-Corruption Crusade and also the entrenchment of international best practices in the detection and investigation of corrupt practices and financial crimes.
PAUL USORO, SAN, FCIArb