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There's Pervasive Insecurity Of Lives, Property In Nigeria – NBA PRESIDENT

NBA PRESIDENT, PAUL USORO (SAN) 
By Francis Iwuchukwu, Lagos 

The president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Paul Usoro (SAN) has made a declaration that those newly elected into political office(s) will be held responsible for the state of insecurity in the country. 

Speaking at the just concluded National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting held in Abuja on June 20, 2019, Usoro, while congratulating the newly sworn in elected political office holders in Nigeria, argued that, “It behooves us, as an Association to hold them to account and constantly remind them of their pact with the Nigerian people. 

“In that regard, I crave your indulgence to raise two critical issues of urgency that affect us personally and as Nigerians, no matter our regions of origin, religion, stations in life or professions.

“The first is the issue of security of lives and property or more correctly, the pervasive insecurity of lives and property in our land. 

“To make the point, I will relate to you the events concerning three of our colleagues, Honourable Kennedy Ofuezuem Amin Nwashindi of Asaba Branch, Frank Promise Igwe of Port Harcourt Branch and Lowuruga Obadiah Yabura of Wukari Branch. 

“Kennedy was kidnapped by armed hoodlums at the gate of his home in Asaba on 16 April 2019 at about 1903 hours.

“He was kidnapped with his wig and gown which tells one that the kidnappers knew him to be a lawyer but were not deterred howsoever. 

“Kennedy’s abductors, in the all-too-familiar practice of kidnappers in our land, named their ransom price in exchange for his life. 

“His family promptly rallied round and paid the ransom in the expectation of receiving back their husband, son, father, uncle and brother. 

“But that was not to be. Kennedy was killed by his abductors after receiving the ransom and his body and his wig, without the gown, were recovered from the scene of the gruesome murder.

“Kennedy would have turned 54 on 24 July but for his assassination. 

“He had garnered 18 years Post-Call experience as a lawyer having been called to the Bar on 23 January 2001. In short, Kennedy was at the prime of his life, full of hope and promise for his community, our country and our profession. 

“I spoke with his widow, Omosetemi, our colleague as well, on Tuesday, 18 June 2019 and my heart bled not just for Kennedy’s family but for our society. 

“Temi did not only lose a husband, she lost a friend, a confidant, a brother, a protector, a shield and the father of their 4 children – the oldest being 15 and the youngest 9. 

“It is difficult for us to imagine the pains and trauma of Kennedy’s immediate family. Temi struggles to understand and decipher why Kennedy was killed by his abductors, despite the payment of the ransom.”

Usoro expressed worry over the inability of the Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN, and security agencies in the country to arise to the occasion while Kennedy was being murdered and the hopes and aspirations of his family and children destroyed.

The NBA President continued; “Where were our governments? Why are the governments, complete with their security apparatchik, so helpless in the face of intruding anarchy in our land?

“I now turn to our colleague, Frank Promise Igwe of Port Harcourt Branch, a young man with quite some promise. Promise was born 45 years ago and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2006. 

“On 12 April 2019, Promise was dressed for and on his way to Court when his car was intercepted by criminal elements who shot him dead, in broad daylight, in the morning hours, in the city of Port Harcourt. 

“Promise’s life, with the promise that he held for his community, society and our profession, was cut short. How does one begin to console Promise’s aged mother who survived his son?

“How does one explain the murder of Promise to his two daughters and his wife? How does one explain to Promise’s family that governments have primary responsibility for the security of lives and property? 

“Why are our governments failing us in the discharge of these crucial responsibilities? Why are we all so helpless?

“Our third colleague, Lowuruga Obadiah Yabura, was the former Chairman of our Wukari Branch. 

“We cannot say whether Yabura is alive or dead. He has not been seen since he was kidnapped along Wukari-Takum Road in Taraba State on April 2, 2019. 

“Not unlike Kennedy’s case, ransom was paid for Yabura’s life. 

“Indeed, so indescribably daring were his abductors, I am told, they set up a bank account where ransom price was paid into, in instalments and drips and the amounts were fully drawn by the criminals. 

“Do you blame the family? No, I cannot. In my function as the President of the NBA, I have so very often spoken with families of our kidnapped colleagues and almost always, there is always that dread of fully involving law enforcement agencies for a number of reasons. 

“And so, it is not uncommon for the families to rely on self-help by paying ransom prices and scrupulously following the instructions of the criminals in the hope – which, as we all know, dies last – that their son, their breadwinner, their father, their husband, their brother would eventually be released. 

“In the case of Kennedy, that never happened. In the case of Yabura, his abductors are not even communicating with anyone anymore and we have no way of knowing whether he is still alive or dead. 

“Again, how do we explain this to his family and dependents? How do we explain the disappearance, without trace, of this our former Chairman who was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1986?”

While questioning the  responsibility of the Nigerian government in the security of lives and property, Usoro insisted that no part of the country is safe.

According to the NBA President, “No region is safe, and no tribe is safe. No one indeed is safe. And yet, we have governments in place, at the Federal, State and Local Government levels and the primary business of governments is the protection of lives and property.”

Usoro, who insisted that without security of lives and property, everything else grinds to a halt, suggested that only those who are alive can enjoy medi-care, educational facilities, infrastructure renewal, economic boom and all the other tangible and intangible benefits of a democratic society. 

The SAN further posited that only those who are alive can vote in the next election. 

“Only those who are alive can trigger boom and prosperity in our economy. Only those who are alive can benefit from and applaud the government for the war against corruption. 

“It is therefore in the interest of the government as much as it is in the interest of the governed for lives and property to be secured and safe. 

“We therefore demand from our governments at all levels this basic minimum of their debt to us, to wit, security of lives and property in the land,” he added.

On the issue of the rule of law, Usoro said it lies prostrate in Nigeria, adding that judges in the country are threatened, intimidated and blackmailed mostly by the executive arms of government and their agencies both at the Federal and State levels. 

The NBA President said, “There is the pervasive concern that government and its security operatives have dossiers on judges, real or imagined, and could unleash inquisitorial terror on judges if they decide issues against governments and its agencies.

“And so, we have Judges literally walking on egg-shells, notably, where governments and their agencies have interest in matters that they adjudicate upon. 

“This state of affairs totally undermines the independence of the judiciary and the ability of the Judges to act confidently without fear or favor in dispensing justice to all manner of men. 

“The irony of all of these is that the men of power today may be the ones who most need the independence of the judiciary tomorrow when they are out of power or are competing for political power.

“Recently, it was reported, and it has not been denied that a Chief Judge was walked out of an official function at the instance of the executive arm of government. 

“In another state, we are told that the Governor has taken it upon himself to displace a sitting Chief Judge without any input from the National Judicial Council. 

“During the Onnoghen CJN’s saga, the NBA had warned that if the undermining of the judiciary’s independence was not checked and nipped in the bud, it would spread like cancer and consume Judges both in the Federal and State Judiciaries. 

“Sadly, we are now seeing the manifestations of that spread and, by extension, the denigration of judicial officers and the erosion of the independence of the judiciary.”

Usoro charged the National Judicial Council, NJC, to arise to its statutory mandate and protect the independence of the Nigerian judiciary. 

The NBA President equally argued that it is impossible to have the Rule of Law without lawyers and an independent legal profession.

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