Judex Okoro, Calabar
The Nigerian Bar Association, Cross River State chapter, has condemned the proposed arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen, saying the country is descending into a totalitarian and fascist state.
Members of the NBA, who boycotted court proceedings in the state in protest against the arraignment, said the move was a breach of the law and known due processes in the country, insisting that members of the bar would not condone any attempt by the executive branch of government to coerce, intimidate and desecrate the judicial arm of government vide the proposed arraignment of the CJN.
Addressing newsmen at the premises of the State High Court in Calabar, the Chairman of the NBA in the state, Emmanuel Idaka, said the bar would resist any attempt by government to make some persons scapegoats particularly heads of institutions.
“I think the time has come for Nigerians to wake up to the current travails that Nigeria is going through. Even if we want to fight corruption, we cannot destroy Nigeria because we want to fight corruption. That is why the law has provided for due process to be followed in the manner things are to be done so that nobody suffers unduly or unjustly.
“This battle has been on, when it was the Senate President, Nigerians woke up in different places to condemn it, because you cannot destroy the legislature just because you want to fight corruption. It is clear this government is doing selective fight against some persons whom they feel are not their persons and are not toeing the line they are toeing.
“I have said before, if they want to fight corruption, let’s go the whole hog. In various places even on the roads, we can find corrupt people all over. Government should fight them and make the country a better place. But we will resist any attempt to make some persons escape goats, especially those who are institutional heads.
“It clearly shows that Nigeria is turning into a fascist and totalitarian government where the people will do whatever the leader says and some of us are not even surprised given the background of the current president. Having been a military head of state, he (President Buhari) may still have it in his bones and marrow that things are done by absolute degrees, it is not so.
“The political dimension to it is that the petitioner has been so close to the president and was even his spokesperson and is a current APC member. If we go into that, it even has a question mark as if it is intended to cause confusion in the country and then score some cheap goals, and so the thing is now backfiring,” the NBA chair said.
Also speaking, Ntufam Mba Ukweni (SAN), said the action of the executive arm of government was unfortunate and government ought not to go against the tenets of the law in its fight against corruption.
“It is a very unfortunate situation. Nobody in the country with a sane mind is saying that the government should not fight corruption. We are all interested and part and parcel of the government’s fight against corruption but we are insisting that the rule of law and due process should be followed in whatever is being done.
“There is no how you can achieve good results if you don’t follow the proper procedure in doing anything. That is what we are insisting on. We are not doing this because the CJN is from this part. When it happened in the National Assembly we spoke.
“Let me make this clear, most of the people that are enjoying the benefits of this democracy did not actually fight for it, and the NBA has been doing that. So for anybody to think that it is because he is from a certain part of the country that we are rising up, they are not correct. It is not because it is affecting the judiciary or the person of the CJN. If it is any other person we will do that and will always do that,” he said.