The Nigerian Bar Association: Rediscovering The Rule of Law & Due Process?

by Paul I. Adujie

It is as if, all of a sudden, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has discovered the rule of law and due process? The NBA now talks about the rule of law and due process as something it has just discovered or just invented?

Many questions have now arisen, among which are whether the NBA has become a rule of law and due process racketeer? Is the NBA in cahoots with looters and the high and mightily corrupt public officials?

Are we witnessing a bastardization of the rule of law and due process in Nigeria? Are these high ideals of law and fine legal concepts being corrupted? All for shortsighted benefits and outlook? 

No day passes now without a mention in the Nigerian press of how members of the Nigerian Bar Association are complaining through its national body or state chapters, about the non-observance by the current Nigerian federal government of the rule of law and due process (but curiously, only as, and when these principles apply to corrupt politicians and high profile Nigerian citizens)! The NBA engages in its rallying cries, each time one corrupt, decadent governor of one of the thirty-six states is impeached!

This trend makes me want to ask whether the Nigerian Bar Association is aware that there are hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens, full-blooded Nigerians, who languish and continue to languish in jails throughout our nation, sometimes for about ten years or even more?  

Surely, there is injustice in the land, no doubt, injustice to the poor, that is! Where is the NBA’s vigorous and robust pursuit of justice for the poor?

Meanwhile, the NBA willfully ignore and neglect the plights and predicament of these  thousands of Nigerians in detention jails throughout the nation, these poor Nigerians who are awaiting their day in court.  

But these categories of Nigerians awaiting trial cannot afford SANs like san-san, as the governors and Mr. Atiku does regularly when they are in trouble with the EFCC and Nigerian law! 

I have read glowing press reports in praise of Mr. Atiku for instance, as some pressmen are in awe of Mr. Atiku because he can afford to hire more Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) than every other Nigerian, alive or dead have ever done. He is reported to have hired ten SANs! 

My primary grouse and gripe here, is with the Nigeria Bar Association. The NBA is an association of Nigerian lawyers in Nigeria, and it would appear that its current leadership is fixated and perhaps fascinated with bounties that corrupt governors and other public officials are offering lawyers for their defense? 

Is the NBA primarily focused on keeping corruptly rich public officials from receiving the natural consequences of their acts of corruptions? Is filthy lucre the motivation? We are all aware of constitutional safeguards and guarantees for anyone accused, deserving legal defense and all; but should that be for big thieving looting crooks in public offices?

The NBA give credence to the law is for the rich and prisons for the poor?

The NBA seem suddenly aware of the existence of the fabled two axioms of the law, to wit, the rule of law and due process. But this sudden awareness appears to be in particular reference corrupt public officials; to the exclusion of the poor? 

It is, as if by the standards of the current NBA parochial and myopic applications, of the rule of law and due process, these terms only applies to corrupt governors and a corrupt vice president that is swimming in legal troubles? 

Lawyers are social engineers as they are the last line of defense between the government and the governed, and between individual persons and or corporate entities. But is the current NBA leadership partial to a segment of our population? 

What are we to make of lawyers, who seem elated to defend corrupt Nigerians in possession of plundered and pillaged public resources? While at the same time, these lawyers are able to, unconscionably ignore the abject conditions of those hundreds of thousands of fellow Nigerians citizens who have been accused of loitering, wandering, and accused of stealing yams, or bicycles or stealing goats? 

Why is the NBA not shouting itself hoarse, regarding our congested prisons and those Nigerian citizens falsely detained because such detainees would not part with a twenty Naira note demanded of them by a corrupt police officer at a road-block checkpoint? The NBA is aware that there are poor Nigerians in detentions/jails awaiting trials for upwards of ten years, and that some of those detainees were falsely accused. Some of those detainees that are awaiting trials, are there because they rightly refused to pay bribes or in some cases, because they could afford the amount demanded by police men. How could these poor persons afford a simple lawyer, let alone a SAN or ten SANs as Mr. Atiku and the some in the Nigerian press, (which he now appears to have in his pocket) relishes?

Is the NBA unaware of the putrid conditions in Nigerian Prisons? Is the NBA aware that our constitution imposes a limitation on how long a Nigerian could be held without trial? (A true violation of the rule of law and due process to be held without trial) Especially in detentions without electricity, water, air or food! 

The prison conditions in Nigeria are beyond terrible. The prisons are over-crowded. When I practiced law in Nigeria as in (Lagos, Makurdi and Benin City, I frequently announced my self as “friend of the court” and represented innocently detained Nigerians in my pro bono legal work.  Most of those persons, particularly in Lagos, were picked up at bus stops for “wandering” or “loitering”. Some were unemployed persons, on their way to the commercial centers in search of employment. My personal visits to detained “clients” were lessons in ultimate horror and brutality to those detained in those prisons squalid conditions. Inmates in detentions in Nigeria whether such detention is deserved or not, usually, eventually suffer bed-sores and skin lesions and malnutrition with accompany emaciated haggard looks and are without exception, extremely underweight. 

With these abject and squalid conditions of thousand of detained Nigerians without trials, currently in Nigerian detentions, under the noses of the NBA! 

 Why is the shrill-shouting about the rule of law and due process by the NBA and the Nigerian press, always in reference to corrupt governors that are facing impeachments and or reserved for vice president Atiku due to the legal travails which he brought upon himself? 

Why is the NBA acting as Siamese twin or co-joined twins with every self-interested, self-serving corrupt decadent governor that are facing impeachment?  

Why does the NBA look the other way, when Joshua Dariye terminated a judge who was participating in a process against Dariye? Dariye did not care to consider any conflict of interest issues, he did not care about recourse to the National Judicial Council or NJC as provided by our 1999 Constitution! 

The NBA did not inquire why the Chief Judge of Ekiti state appointed known lackeys and acolytes of Peter Fayose as members of an investigation panel? 

Why is the rule of law and due process now the exclusive preserves of pillagers and plunderers and crooks? Is the rule of law and due process for only those who have corruptly enriched themselves at the expense of Nigeria? 

When will the rule of law and due process be advocated on behalf of bicycle thieves, chicken thieves, and goat thieves? When will the rule of law and due process filter down to the falsely accused? When will the rule of law and due process benefit those who refused to give bribes?

And those Nigerians who have been falsely accused and detained without trial for ten years?

When will the NBA and others, use the rule of law and due process to facilitate the retrieval of monies and resources that were stolen from Nigeria? When will the rule of law

and due process be used to fight corruption, which is the cause of poverty in Nigeria? When will the rule of law and due process apply to Nigeria’s poor? When will the rule of law and due process bring succor? 

When will the NBA and others employ the rule of law and due process for common good?

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1 comment

Douglas Fodor June 10, 2009 - 12:10 pm

Doesn’t the country of Nigeria select and elect public officials in your justice system, your district attorney’s office who appoints a junior attorney to represent a client who cannot afford a SAN in the Federal Republic of NIgeria. Isn’t your justice system similar to the British, and I thought that our American system of justice was based on the British also, and we have free representation of clients who have no funds. what happens to this individuals they just sit in jail for years and never come to trial?? this is unfair and cruel punishment, and it is not a fair system for all in Nigeria.


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