The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, on Friday, tackled President Muhammadu Buhari for declaring that he would continue to place national security above the rule of law.
The legal body, in a communiqué issued at the end of its 58th Annual General Conference held in Abuja, maintained that issues of national security must be managed within the perimeters and parameters of the rule of law.
NBA equally frowned on what it described as a growing penchant of the administration for disobeying court orders.
It will be recalled that President Buhari had in an address he presented at the opening ceremony of the NBA conference last Sunday, insisted that individual rights of alleged offenders would not be spared when national security and public interest are threatened.
In its first official statement on the issue, NBA which is the umbrella body of legal practitioners in the country rejected the President’s position.
It said: “The NBA restates that the rule of law is central to a democracy and any national security concerns by the government must be managed within the perimeters and parameters of the rule of law.
“The conference frowns on the present growing trend whereby government decides on which court orders to obey. The court has an exclusive duty under a democratic dispensation to interpret the constitution and other laws. And government and the citizenry must comply with court orders at all times until set aside.
“Executive Orders should be issued for good governance and to manage operations of government, and not to encroach or usurp the constitutional powers of other arms of government, lest Executive Orders become attempts at decree-making.
“The conference resolved that our democracy can be better strengthened by an independent judiciary and consequently calls for a budgetary arrangement that allows for funds to be directly allocated to the judiciary at federal and state levels.
It said: “The conference reiterates its support for the war against corruption, but this war must be across aboard and not selective. In this regard, the NBA will work with all law enforcement agencies with the common objective of promoting the rule of law, and therefore calls on its members to be vigilant and take necessary steps to prevent the molestation of legal practitioners when carrying out lawful duties.
“The NBA asserts that investigative institutions like the EFCC must remain impartial so as to engender confidence in their operations. This is particularly urgent as we enter into an election year”.
Meanwhile, the conference ended yesterday with a formal handover of baton to a new executive led by its newly elected President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN.
Outgone President of the NBA, Mr. Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, denied an allegation that he manipulated the association’s election to ensure Usoro’s emergence as his successor.
In his acceptance speech, Usoro, who took over as the 29th President of NBA, vowed to reform the association’s electoral process, even as he urged his rivals at the poll to join hands with him to move the body forward.
He said: “The NBA will not be living true to its creed and lead motif if it were to become such a yes-man to any government or its agency. It is, in truth, not in the DNA to be such a yes-man organisation. Rather than crave for yes-men in the NBA, government and its agencies should be craving for collaborative partnership, even if sometimes, adversarial, with the NBA so they could work together in the promotion and protection of the rule of law’’.