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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has urged the leaders of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to go beyond issuing statements and take concrete action against attacks on the system judiciary of the country.
Wike gave the charge during the presentation of the book in honor of Justice Mary Odili as part of the activities marking her retirement from the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the celebration of her 70th birthday, held at the Center of Dr. Obi Wali International Conference in Port Harcourt last Monday.
Governors present at the event were: Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia); Rt. Hon. Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa); Mr. Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom); Senator Douye Diri (Bayelsa); Samuel Ortom (Benue); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); and Engr Seyi Makinde (Oyo).
The governor expressed regret over the NBA’s lackluster approach to social change, which does more service to the nation and exposes it to contempt.
“What is even concerning about the President of the NBA is that he does not admit that the NBA, including the indoor and outdoor bar that he leads, has failed in its responsibility to protect the rule of law and to defend the judiciary against punitive intimidation and erosion of its independence by the federal government led by the Congress of All Progressives.
“It is quite unfortunate that the NBA is good at issuing only bland statements of condemnation, while the judiciary continues to suffer bouts of fierce harassment from a federal government that has become notorious for its dismissive attitude. to the rule of law and the rights of Nigerians to an effective justice system.
Wike also disagreed with some speakers during last Thursday’s farewell session in honor of Justice Odili, who blamed politicians for the problems plaguing the justice system.
Specifically, Wike said Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, speaking on behalf of the Senior Advocates Corps during the farewell session, identified corruption as the scourge of the Nigerian judiciary and pointed the finger at responsibility politicians, lawyers and the federal government.
Wike noted that while the scholarly senior attorney was largely correct regarding the issues of forum shopping by attorneys and bullying of the courts by the federal government, he was however wrong in his allusion to political affairs as responsible for the debasement of Nigerian courts.
“Now, if I may say so: Aren’t lawyers the source of scornful criticism of judges by clients? How many lawyers have retired from political cases to protest against unjustified court punishment by clients?
“How many lawyers have withdrawn their services from clients because of frivolous claims against the court without their consent? Who are those advising politicians to reach out to judges? Where are the lawyers who have already advised their clients not to go to the judges to handle their cases?
“For me, let’s stop looking for scapegoats and tell the truth that as lawyers most of us are all involved in this despicable conduct, perpetrating the same evil, but on different levels due to our predisposition to succeed through backdoors with no regard for the reputational damage we cause to the entire justice system.
The governor said the federal government in 2016 launched premeditated midnight raids on the homes of judges, including Supreme Court justices, in the states of Abuja, Port Harcourt, Gombe, Kano, Enugu and Sokoto.
“In 2020, when the sanctity of Justice Mary Odili’s home was violated by hired members of the APC following the Supreme Court ruling that sacked the party’s candidate for state governor of Bayelsa, the NBA just sentenced him, with no further follow-up action to prevent a recurrence.
Wike also stressed that it should also not be lost sight of the fact that the judiciary is also a problem for itself because it is weak and unable to assert and preserve its independence from the predatory tendencies of other branches of the government.
He noted that when judges lack courage and integrity, they easily give in to improper pressure, influence and control, and the entire judiciary suffers.
Wike assured that if elected President of Nigeria in 2023, he would work with the National Assembly to prioritize the welfare of all judicial officers, including the provision of official cars and accommodation for life, like we did here in Rivers State.
“With me in the saddle as President and Commander-in-Chief, the judiciary in Nigeria will be in safe hands and Nigerians will once again experience the glory days of an independent, vibrant and progressive judiciary.”
In her remarks, the former Supreme Court Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mary Odili noted that although Nigerian judges are among the best in the world, they have never been treated properly.
“We talked a lot about judges, judgments and corruption and so on. Truth be told, Nigerian judges have not been treated properly and the truth has not been told about Nigerian judges who in my opinion are the best in the world. I pronounced no judgment and fell asleep easily.
Justice Odili, who served as First Lady of Rivers State between 1999 and 2007, said she was delighted that some of her judgments had been released for the public to assess.
“I am very happy that some of my judgments have been printed. And as I looked through the judgments of these great judges and magistrates of the former state of Bendel, my own judgments are now out in the open for all to see. can look at them. All that can be said is that she did not apply the law correctly here; she did not understand the law well. But, no one can ever say that she made a judgment because of an interest in the case.
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, described Justice Odili as an epitome of humility.
The President of the occasion and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Onueze CJOkocha, SAN, noted that Justice Odili has served the country meritoriously, honorable and without stain to her character.
The five books written in honor of Judge Mary Odili are: Judicial Journey of Hon. Judge Mary U. Peter Odili; Essays in honor of the Hon. Judge Mary Ukaego Peter Odili; Icon and On: Major Judgments on Women’s Rights in Nigeria Honoring Justice Mary Peter Odili; Mary Odili and the Law: Legal Essays and Understanding the Administration of Criminal Justice in Nigeria through the Eyes of Hon. Judge Mary Ukaego Peter Odili.

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