Onnoghen: NBA’s boycott directive succeeds partially in Abuja

THE boycott called on Monday by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), asking its members not to appear before courts across the country in protest of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, partially succeeded in Abuja, Tuesday.

The President of the NBA, Paul Usoro (SAN), after an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) of the association held in Abuja on Monday had called on lawyers not to attend court sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday to protest Justice Onnoghen’s suspension and the swearing of Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad by President Muhammadu last Friday.

However, Nigerian Tribune gathered that lawyers, who have cases listed for hearing on Tuesday, at the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, attended the courts’ sitting.

Lawyers were seen at the High Courts of the Federal Capital Territory complex in Maitama taking dates in their matter, scheduled for Tuesday.

Only Justice Binta Nyako sat, out of the eleven Federal High Courts in Abuja, while lawyers, who have cases were in court to take date for next sitting on their matter.

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Nigerian Tribune observed that while some lawyers complied with the boycott directive, some flouted it, arguing that their presence in Court was not an endorsement of President Buhari suspension directive but for the interest of their clients.

At one of the courts, after a rowdy atmosphere created by the lawyers, the judge in chamber invited the senior lawyers for consultation.

According to one of the senior lawyers, Hassan Liman (SAN), who addressed other lawyers in the courtroom, after the meeting, said the judge is ready to sit, although he found out that other courts are not sitting.

“It is left for us to decide whether to take our cases or not”.

The lawyers, after deliberating on whether to comply with the NBA order or not, resolved to obey the order to boycott sitting.

The boycott, yesterday, led to the adjournment of more than 90 cases at the Federal High Court, some of them political, which are time bound.

Some of the lawyers, who spoke with Nigerian Tribune under anonymity, said they came to court because they have cases and added that, it will be a disservice to their clients if their matter were called and their legal representatives were absent.

According to one of them: “Well, some lawyers came perhaps on the impression that the courts were not carried along and it will be disastrous if you are not there when your matter is called.

“Many people wanted to come to court and confirm if the NBA carried the judges along. So that is why you find so many of us in court. When some of the judges are sitting, lawyers will be left with no option than to take their matter,” he said.

When reminded that courts are not members of NBA to be carried along, he said: “Ordinarily, when this kind of thing happens, they have to be carried along, send the communique, circular intimating them of the call because judges are members of the NBA too. Even though they are not like private practitioners, judges are also lawyers.”

Asked if the lawyers who appeared in court will be penalised, he doubted if such action will take place. “You know there is chaos all over the place, on the part of the judiciary, the bar, even the government, lots of lawlessness is going on. I don’t see anybody penalizing anybody.”

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