A pro-democracy group has decried the latest volte-face by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on the arrest of judges, describing it as “unacceptable,” and “hasty.”
It equally tasked Nigerians to defend the judiciary against “executive coup,” while asserting that “the last stronghold of the common man must never be compromised or destroyed.”
Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution (CDNDC) accused the President of NBA, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) of overreaching himself by preempting the outcome of a committee he constituted as the President of the bar, to make recommendations.
In a statement by its Co-Convener, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, the group posited that “it is counterproductive for Mahmoud to ask the Judiciary to do what the NBA will not tell the executive to do and will not do to it own members accused of crimes.”
After admitting to “accusations and counter-accusations between some of the judges and other personalities (members of the executives) or agencies,” CDNDC said “it was tantamount to taking sides by asking only one party to step down. This is unacceptable.
“We must never sacrifice the independence and integrity of the bench on the urgency of placating the current regime under the contrived guise of anti-corruption crusade. We must be conscious of the bigger picture and protect our democracy.
“We view the call by the NBA President as prejudicial to the innocence of the judges and contrary to the 2014 Revised Judicial Discipline Regulations formulated by NJC pursuant to Section 160 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“This unilateral action by Mahmoud, asking the judges to recuse themselves without weighing some limitations and the possibility of an overbearing executive using same loophole to get at other judges not wiling to play games, is unacceptable, hasty and counterproductive.
“While we desire an holistic reform of the judiciary by the NJC to deal ruthlessly with cases of corruption, we sincerely urge Nigerians never to allow any warped sting operation against some marked judges not doing the bid of politicians, to sail through.
“The invasion of the judiciary is a threat to justice and democracy, and anything that violates section 158 of the 1999 Constitution of the FRN as amended, must be resisted and defeated,” CDNDC said.
The pro-democracy group however commended the boldness of the NJC for defending the independence of the judiciary, the sanctity of democracy and it insistence on the rule of law.
“It may be necessary that some laws be rejigged and amended to cope with subsisting international best practices but no group or institution should illegally assume control over the judiciary,” CDNDC warned.