By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, has urged judicial officers and legal practitioners in the country to safeguard and promote the rule of law.
The body of senior lawyers harped on adopting a ‘‘mutually-assured-defence’ strategy to protect the rule of law”.
This was contained in the address of the Body of SANs, read by Chief Chris Uche, at the opening of the 2019/2020 legal year of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, yesterday.
The Chief Judge of High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Ishaq Bello, declared the new legal year opened.
“We are all living witnesses to what happened during the Onnoghen saga, which I need not speak on.
“As members of one profession, Judges and lawyers all have a bounden duty to safeguard and promote the rule of law” he stated.
“Two weeks ago, we attended the International Bar Association Conference in Seoul, South Korea and one of the outstanding sessions and our major takeaway was the showcase symposium on the Rule of Law, which had such huge message for Nigeria.
“The focus was on the assault by some governments around the world on the rule of law by attacks on the independence of the judiciary and of the legal profession in a contrived plan to intimidate Judges and cow lawyers particularly with a pseudo fight against so-called corruption.”
The Body of SANs stated that the emerging and revealing phenomenon is that these erosions of the rule of law are occurring in countries with elected governments, not military regimes.
These attacks, the SANs said, always represent the initial symptoms of descent to authoritarianism as the fabrics of democracy and freedom are gradually weakened and destroyed when the independence of the judiciary and the independence of the legal profession are attacked and eroded.
“Since it is the Bar that will fight for the independence of the Judiciary, an emasculation of the Bar through attacks on the independence of the legal profession will result in the direct erosion of the independence of the Judiciary.
“The independence of the judiciary and the legal profession are not for the benefit of lawyers; they are actually for the benefit of the society and this is because, once the lawyers are cowed, the fundamental rights of the citizens to be represented by lawyers of their choices are destroyed, and indeed justice dispensation is threatened and undermined,” Uche said.
Uche stressed that the Bench and the Bar must be jointly involved in the defence of the independence of the Judiciary.