By Odeh Henry
The president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Paul Usoro, has said that judges in the country are currently afraid to perform their duties as expected as result of intimidation from the executive. Usoro made these remarks while delivering an address at the national executive committee (NEC) meeting of the association, which held at the NBA secretariat in Abuja, on Thursday.
He also spoke about the high level of insecurity and poor state of adherence to the rule of law in the country. In his view,
he expressed worry over the “intimidation of judges by members of the executive arm of government and security operatives who are all under the direct control of the executive arm headed by the president”, he stated further that judges now “operate under an oppressive and fearful condition.
He said, “Our judges are threatened, intimidated and blackmailed mostly by the executive arm of government and their agencies both at the federal and state levels,” he said. He therefore reemphasized the zeal of the association to continually discharge its duties without fear or favour.
“Our judges cannot deliver justice under a climate of fear and intimidation. Justice can only thrive where and when there is an independent judiciary. There can be no such independence when there is no security of tenure for our Judges. There can be no independence of the judiciary when our judges are intimidated, threatened and blackmailed by state agencies and their officials.
“There can be no independence of the judiciary when our judges are actively coerced by state officials to think and reason only in the manner that such officials would have them think.”
The senior advocate of Nigeria also lamented over how some members of the association were victims of the high rate of insecurity in the country.
“My dear colleagues, as you would observe, I have given you three illustrative instances of the insecurity that pervades our land from the three NBA Nigerian Zones – East, West and North – and that, by itself, makes the point that no part of our country is safe,” he said.
“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. Indeed, without security of lives and property, everything else grinds to a halt.”
He called on the federal government to address the security challenges currently bedevilling the country and urged public officials to adhere to the rule of law.