Activities in all the courts in Rivers state including the Appeal and Federal High courts were on Tuesday crippled by the two day warning protest by the Nigerian Barr Association(NBA), in respect of the perceived illegal suspension of the Chief Judge of Nigeria(CJN), Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Members of the National Executive Committee (NEC), of the NBA in a meeting in Abuja, the Federal capital territory, Monday directed all Lawyers in the country to boycott all court
sitting for two days, on Tuesday and today while a 3-man committee of two past presidents of the body ( Olanikpeku, A. B. Mahmood), and the current President Paul Usoro interface with authorities concerned on the issue.
Although all the courts visited were open court registrars (a. k. a. Clerks), on their seats, but the judges were not found sitting on any of the courts even when their cars were parked at in various parking lots.
Lawyers were also sparingly seen around the courts, those who managed to cime around were either on mufty or not properly dressed for normal courtroom business.
In the same vain, prisons warders were equally seen at the port Harcourt high court premises with the inmates from Port Harcourt Prisons for their matters before the courts, but they suspects were securely locked up at the court cell all through without being taken to court.
The warders who interacted with the Nation Reporter said “courts are not sitting, they are complying with the protest called for by the Nigerian Bar Association following the suspension of the CJN, so we cannot take the inmates to court, but those of them whose cases were adjourned today are all around but locked up in the cell.”
Some of the relatives of the suspects who planned to see and talk with them on their way to court (the easiest opportunity to see and chat briefly with them without having to pay any toll or pass through protocoles) were seen lurking around the court cell.
To kick off the action, Lawyers in the state staged a peaceful protest at the High court premises, they matched from the Magistrate Court section to the High Court area and the to the Federal High Court through to the National industrial Court and Appeal Court in Port Harcourt with the view of ensuring total compliance.
Speaking to newsmen shorrly after the match, the state NBA chairman Sylvester Adaka, expresded the opinion that even if there are issues of corruption linked to the CJN, the President should follow due process in handling it rather than arrogating power to himself.
“It is not that NBA is encouraging corruption in any way, all we are saying is that there is a process which must be followed.”
He appealed to litigants who would be affected by the suspension of work for two days by the NBA not to be panic, explaining that the move was to end executive’s disobedience to the rule of law.
Meanwhile, former Attorney General of Rivers State and a Senior Advocate of Nigerian, Barinua Wifa, has stated that the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigerian, Justice Walter Onneghen, was a trial on the nation’s democracy.
The legal luminary, who spoke in Port Harcourt, on Tuesday, noted that the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend Onnoghen and appoint Justice Tanko Mohammed was hasty and did not follow the constitution of the nation.
Wifa noted that President Muhammadu Buhari does not have the constitutional backing to appoint or remove a judicial official without recommendations from the National Judicial Council, adding that the president acted contrary to the law.
He said: “What is going on today is not a trial on the CJN, but a trail on Nigerian democracy. I am among the 25 persons that compiled what we are using today as the 1999 Constitution, and that made me automatically a Constitutional lawyer. There is no section of that constitution that gives the president such powers.
“I am calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to be more noble by admitting his error and recall the CJN. There are so many motifs, but let us save this nation from disintegration.”
Wifa, however, stated that the President may have acted as a result of fears, but advised Buhari to leave fear and do what is constitutional.
“NJC made the recommendation for the appointment of the CJN, then why sacking him without returning to the same NJC. The president as it is, is trying to intimidate the judiciary, so he should recall him, and conclude their investigation and prosecution before the sack.