There were mixed reactions yesterday to the boycott order of courts given to its members by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), on Monday.
The lawyers ordered a two-day boycott of the courts in protest of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, last Friday by President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, many lawyers including some Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) appeared before the various courts in Abuja yesterday fully robbed.
At the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Maitama division, lawyers were seeing in their numbers rushing to court in their wigs and gown. Most of the cases were, however, adjourned due to the inability of the courts to sit.
Some of the lawyers spoke with Daily Sun and pleaded anonymity. One of them said: “Many wanted to come to court and to confirm if the NBA carried the judges along. So that is why you find so many of us in court.”
Kaduna lawyers complied with the directive. State chairman of the NBA, Suleiman Shuaibu, said: “We went to the premises of the State High Court to ensure that no lawyer disregards the directive. We proceeded to the Federal High Court premises, and no lawyer disobeyed the directive.”
Court staff were seen carrying out official duties, saying lawyers’ boycott would not stop them from going to office because, “we are not lawyers, but workers.”
Jigawa State branch of the NBA announced it would not comply with the directive.
Its chairman, Bashir Hussaini, said: “The branch will not embark on any strike or boycott of court proceedings, instead we will remain resolute always in support of the fight of corruption at any level.”
Kano State NBA Chapter instructed its members not to comply with the directive to boycott the courts.
A statement by its secretary, Mujitaba Adamu Ameen, directed: “We should be please endeavour to preserve of our highly respected profession by being fair to the society and fair to our children yet unborn.”
Lawyers yesterday, shut down court proceedings in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, as they staged a peaceful protest in condemnation of the suspension of Onnoghen.
The lawyers, who gathered at the NBA House, marched to Magistrate Court, State High Court, Federal High Court, National Industrial Court and Court of Appeal and stopped proceedings.
NBA chairman, Port Harcourt Branch, Mr. Sylvester Adaka, said the association did not support corruption: “We are saying due process must be followed, people should not be confused about what we are doing. Our protest today, does not mean that the NBA is encouraging corruption in any way.
“If we do not do things like this, one day, we will face the kind of courts shutdown that we faced in 2014. It means that one day, one man can wake up, drive an armoured tank and block the courts and say no more court here. So, if we have to sacrifice one or two days to avoid that, I think such a sacrifice is necessary.”
In what seemed like break in communication, there was partial compliance yesterday by lawyers in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Chairman of the Ilorin branch of NBA, Muhmmed Akande, said: “There was partial compliance because really some members were not aware so we tried our best to enforce it. I was at the NEC meeting on Monday where the decision was made and I just got back to the office.
“The heads of courts are not aware so I have to call the Chief Judge of the state and some other heads of courts.
You know we have to communicate them officially with the decision of NEC. I just came with the official position for the attention of the heads of courts. So by tomorrow (today), there will be total compliance.”
The protest rocked Cross River as over 300 members of the NBA took to the streets to register their grievances.
Members from Calabar, Ikom and Ogoja, branches, who converged at state judiciary headquarters, Calabar, defied the rain and matched to the Governor’s Office at to present a six-point demand to the governor for onward transmission to the president.
Some of the placards carried inscriptions such as “No to Tyranny;” “Probe CCT Chairman,” “Probe Tanko” and “We are not in a military era.”
Others read: ‘let rule law prevail;’ ‘NBA Calabar says no to Executive Rascality;’ ‘Nigeria not a Banana Republic;’ Justice Onnoghen we know,’ and ‘who is Tanko?’
The lawyers in the communiqué presented Deputy Governor, Prof. Ivara Esu, said: “We condemn in the strongest terms, and wholly reject the unconstitutional suspension of Justice Onnoghen by President Buhari.
“Unless this abuse of the constitution is redressed immediately, the rule of law will be in jeopardy and this will drive the country towards anarchy. The Constitution of Nigeria must remain supreme and sacrosanct.”
The directive did not have effect on different courts in Lagos State yesterday, as lawyers were seen engaging in daily usual court activities
Many lawyers ignored the NBA directive, as visits to various courts revealed that fully robbed lawyers, turned up, ready to conduct businesses for the day.
At the State High Court in Ikeja, Ikorodu and Igbosere many courtrooms were busy as usual, even Magistrate Courts in these jurisdictions were also busy with lawyers doing their things.
Although most judges at the Federal High Court did not sit with some said to be attending a seminar, this was also observed at the Court of Appeal, the court did not sit but its premises was busy as lawyers were coming in and out.
The chairman of NBA, Abakaliki Branch, Ebonyi State, Festus Nweke, told pressmen yesterday: “The situation is that lawyers have boycotted court sitting in the state for two days as a way of registering our reservations for the action taken against the CJN.
“None of the courts is opened. The action of the Federal Government is an aberration of the law. The Federal Government is not the appropriate body to punish a judicial officer.
“It is an invitation to full blown arnachy if we allow it to stand. There are established rules. Let the Federal Government follow the established due process.
“NBA Abakaliki is in support of its NEC’s resolution. A lawless society is not what we want. We sent our members to monitor Afikpo and other places and I can tell you that in Ebonyi, it total shut down. Not even customary court sat today.”
In Enugu State, our correspondent, on a visit to the High Court in Independence Layout, observed that the NBA’s directive was total complied as only few judicial staff and some litigant were seen discussing in clusters.
At the Federal High Court, there was no court session as judges and lawyers were not available. Only few staff and security personnel were seen in the court premises.
A lawyer, Boniface Ugwu, told Daily Sun: “Our boycott from court sessions today is in compliance to the directive of the national body of NBA in protest against illegality.”
He said that the boycott would continue tomorrow.