Nigerian lawyers across the country on Tuesday reacted differently to the call for boycott the courts by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Many lawyers in the Federal Capital Territory reported to the courts despite the NBA call. The atmosphere at both the Federal High Court and FCT High Court in Maitama was calm as lawyers reported to the courts for their normal businesses.
The court also sat over their listed matters as many lawyers turned up for the sessions. However, some lawyers said they are in court just to get new dates for their matters.
In Lagos, some lawyers also turned up for the court sessions on Tuesday.
Also, the Kano and Yobe branches of the association dissociated themselves from the boycott. The Yobe State branch of the NBA, while regretting the circumstances leading to Onnoghen’s suspension, added that lawyers had a duty to appear in court for the adjudication of matters.
“The Nigerian Bar Association, Damaturu branch regrets the situation that led to the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen.
“As ministers in the temple of justice, we insist that this is a matter that is already before the court and should be left for the courts to decide. One of the cardinal roles of the bar is to protect the integrity and essence of the courts and their processes.
“Hence this branch of the NBA calls on all its members to shun any boycott of the courts and continue with their roles as prosecutors, judges and attorneys,” it said.
The Kano NBA stated that it has decided not to ask any member of its branch to boycott the courts because lawyers “ should be responsible enough to do the best for our only country Nigeria, our families, clients and the system as a whole.”
But in Ebonyi State, members of the NBA decided to fully complied the boycott call of the national body. Festus Nweke, the Ebonyi State NBA Chairman, said none of the courts in the state sat today.
“We are totally in support of the boycott. We are not happy with what has happened and we urge the federal government to rescind its decision,” he said.
Some of those that appeared in court said that the boycott call of NBA over the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of the Nigeria (CJN), would not be effective while others said it would send a message that rule of law and constitutional provisions should not be undermined. Some lawyers also expressed worries over the moral burden on the NBA leadership on the issue of corruption.
“Even the NBA president, Mr Paul Usoro has an unresolved issue which will make any protest led by him to appear as pursuing a personal vendetta. Based on what is in the public view, It is doubtful, if many lawyers are going to partake in this because the NBA president can not rally lawyers for anti corruption crusade when he has some corruption charges against him in court,” Mr Ogedi Ogu, a Lagos-based lawyer told NAN.
However, Mr Chibuikem Opara, another Lagos lawyer said that the court boycott call was a good one as it make government to ensure that its actions were guided by the provisions of the constitution. He said the court boycott is part of the sacrifices that should be made to ensure that the rule of law is not trampled upon by government.
“If the judiciary is destroyed, lawyers will be the ultimate losers. It will affect lawyers income. I would have liked if the boycott was for more than two days to send strong signal that provisions of the constitution should be strictly followed,” he said.
However, some lawyers believe the boycott is not effective because of the short time notice.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Jan. 25 suspended Justice Walter Onnoghen as the CJN, following a motion exparte granted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal in his trial for non full declaration of his assets. He was replaced by Justice Tanko Mohammed as acting CJN. st Tabl