Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole has claimed that some members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) are supporting corrupt Nigerians to subvert the war on corruption.
Speaking at the National Executive Committee Meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association in Benin on Friday morning, Oshiomhole noted that corruption is fighting back and lawyers are aiding those who have cases of corruption in court by seeking needless adjournments at the detriment of the war on corruption.
Oshiomhole said: “I think right now people are beginning to fall, and with your help, they can fall faster. Corruption is fighting back and I regret to have to say this in your presence, I should say this after you have left, that it appears that corruption is fighting back, and a section of the Bar is supporting this effort, because we have seen needless adjournments, needless amendments to charges and needless preliminary objections, leading to endless adjournments. I think that the Bar in your business section agrees on a code that if as Buhari said, if we don’t kill corruption, it will kill us, and we don’t want to die, then we must allow justice to have its way without delaying it.”
He charged members of the Bar to ensure that the law is always tilted to the side of justice, saying that people will continue to depend on courts only if they believe they will get justice, not judgment from the law courts.
He said: “I ask you as officers in the temple of justice to try to tilt the law, the practice of the law more to the side of justice rather than judgment. Very often, we see real tension between justice and judgment. Mr. President, you have just advised, and I believe it is a very common sense advice that as we approach the elections in Edo State and Ondo State later this year, that we should play by the rules.
“Those rules must be rules of justice and fairness, not technicalities. The point I want to make is that people will continue to depend on courts for as long as they can perceive that there will be justice at the end of the day, not judgment. When more and more people believe that there is tension between justice and judgment, the temptation to resort to other forms will gain more currency.”
Oshiomhole continued, “When justice is subverted, there is danger to democracy. Therefore, I want to plead with the Bar that you are in a position by the quality of your argument to persuade judges to resolve issues more on the basis of facts, rather than technicalities. When Donald Trump, we are all familiar with him, said that justice should not only be done, it should be seen to have been done, the eyes with which it is seen are not legal eyes, they are the eyes of very ordinary people, including motor mechanics, sweepers, thugs, cooks and even comrades. If all of these people feel that justice has been murdered, and you celebrate that you got a judgment, honestly the burden is yours because ordinary people believe justice was sacrificed, and when more and more people also believe it, then our system will be under severe pressure.”
He refuted claims that the war on corruption was lopsided, saying for the fact that Peoples Democratic Party was in power for 16 years, it was inevitable its members have to at the central stage on the war against corruption
Oshiomhole said: “The truth is if you monopolize power for sixteen years, and you monopolize the sharing of the national treasury for sixteen years, should you not monopolize the burden of being prosecuted for sixteen years? Is it the victims of the sharing that should be prosecuted? You dominated power for sixteen years, you have operated in the name of Boko Haram and you spent the money and shared the money. Who else should be prosecuted? So, I think the Bar needs to be bold in dismissing those who are seeking to trivialize the anti-Corruption war. Just now, we are beginning to see all kinds of groups coming up under the guise of one protest or the other. They want to harass and intimidate the system”.
Responding to the critics of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, he said the President is already delivering on his electoral promises and the APC Change agenda.
He said “I know that right now, everybody is talking in the country. Is this the change we asked for? And my answer is Yes. It is the change we asked for. For all of us in this hall, you know that the challenge of fixing a house that has been destroyed is much more cumbersome than even building a completely new house because for the one that has been destroyed, you have to start by removing the debris. You have to check whether the foundations are weak so that you remove them. You must first do a lot of cleansing and excavation.
“That is what President Muhammadu Buhari is doing. And people expect that in twelve months, you would have fixed what was destroyed in sixteen years. It is simply not possible and in any case, you must also recognize that even the pressure on the naira is the result of the so much dollars that was taken out and it will require a lot of efforts at a time of collapsed prices and the challenge of oil export to fix what was completely mismanaged.
“So, I asked us as elite, we have a duty to explain to the Nigerian people: Changes will come, but they won’t come by trying to remove a house with smoke under. You must extinguish the fire and make sure the foundations are strong, and start the process of rebuilding gradually.”
“Is this the Change we asked for? Yes. It’s the Change we asked for. There is no way miracles can occur in the life of a nation. The challenge of re-fixing the house has been destroyed is much more cumbersome.
“People expect that in twelve months, the President would have fixed what was destroyed in 16 years. Even the pressure on the naira is because so much dollar was taken out.”
He called on the NBA to join the government in the fight against corruption, saying “the NBA has a very important role to play in the national effort to combat and defeat corruption. But I asked my Lord the Chief Judge, by the time the President of the NBA said the Bar has been fighting the war, and I said to my lord, are you aware of any casualty in the war the NBA has been fighting against corruption? Is it possible to fight a war without casualties? I think now we are beginning to see casualties because there is a renewed determination by the federal government under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari to demonstrate that if it is true that corruption is as rampant as everybody claims, and if it is true that we have set up institutions to fight it, it cannot also be true that we are fighting and nobody is falling.
Speaking earlier, President, Nigerian Bar Association Augustine Alegeh promised that the association would support the State through voter education, “We know that they will have elections in Edo State and Ondo State in the next few months, our election monitoring group, our voter education and our voter mobilization group will be working in those states, because what is involved in election is to understand that there is only one seat, even though there are a hundred candidates, only one person will win.
“They should eschew violence, they should understand that all elevation comes from God and that if there is any infraction during the elections, there will be no need to fight or employ thugs. We have enough competent lawyers in the NBA to take up your case to the tribunal. So, in the coming elections, no violence, no fighting, let us move our country forward. Let us accept the rules; let us play by the rules, and if there is a breach of any rule, let us approach the courts that are equipped to deal with these issues.”
On the Niger Delta Avengers, the NBA President said: “we are in the Niger Delta, and we have been hearing of Niger Delta Avengers. We believe any persons who are fighting against the collective interest of the State must stop. The price of crude oil has dropped so badly, and for us to be inflicting additional pains on Nigerians by breaking pipelines and thereby reducing the volume of crude that we produce will impoverish our nation and bring hardship on the Nigerian people.
“We urge all those involved to seek alternative means of dealing with their grievances so that our nation can move forward.”
The 3-day National Executive Committee Meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association ended on Friday.