NIGERIAN Bar Association (NBA) officials are considering stripping justice minister and attorney-general Abubakar Malami of his Senior Advocate of Nigeria (San) title in response to the recent raid on the home of Supreme Court Justice Mary Odili’s Abuja home.
Last week, Department of State Services (DSS) operatives raided Justice Odili’s home for no apparent reason, in what is seen as an attempt to intimidate the judiciary. Incensed about the raid, the NBA has refused to accept the flurry of denials by Mr Malami and security agencies that they knew nothing about the operation.
NBA president , Olumide Akpata, also rejected the panel being set up by Mr Malami to investigate the matter because he himself has a case to answer and cannot be a judge in his own case. Speaking in Lagos yesterday, Mr Akpata, described the operation as egregious and the gathering of an ominous cloud over the judiciary.
He said it was reminiscent of how DSS operatives raided the homes of seven judges in 2016 and how a former chief justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, was illegally removed from office ahead of the 2019 general elections. Mr Akpata vowed that the NBA would stop at nothing to ensure that those behind the latest operation were unmasked and punished, to put a stop to the assault on the judiciary.
Mr Apata said: “We are calling on the president, the head of the executive arm of government, to set up an independent panel of inquiry, to look into this assault on the judiciary, which is another arm of government because there is a dark cloud hanging and all fingers are pointing at the executive as being behind this action. It behoves Mr President to step in immediately, to set up this panel of inquiry, which, at the minimum, will have a judicial officer and the NBA involved so that we can get to the bottom of this issue and ask who gave that instruction?”
He added that the NBA would also do its own housekeeping, vowing that in the event that it finds that any lawyer was involved in this unfortunate incident, that lawyer will be subjected to the NBA disciplinary mechanisms and will definitely face the music. According to Mr Apata, the NBA has the capacity to discipline any lawyer in Nigeria, no matter how senior.
Mr Apata said: “We note that the attorney-general of the federation has reportedly agreed to make himself available for investigation. This is consistent with the position of the National Executive Council of the NBA, to the effect that the attorney-general definitely has questions to answer but he cannot subject himself to a panel that he sets up, which is why the panel to be set up by the president is very necessary.
“If the attorney-general is found culpable, then as a lawyer, we will take him before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) and the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC). If indeed, he is found to have given the directives that led to the invasion of the home of the justice of the Supreme Court, then he is not fit to hold the office he occupies presently and continue to be the recipient of the privileges the profession has accorded to him.
“There is a mechanism and that is for us to bring him before the LPDC. He can be stopped from practising law and the LPPC can strip him of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria and also the Body of Benchers can reconsider his life membership.”
In addition, Mr Apata said action was also being taken against the Abuja magistrate, Emmanuel Iyanna, who issued the search warrant leading to the invasion of Justice Odili’s home. He added that questions must be asked of the quality and sufficiency of the materials placed before the magistrate before issuing the search warrant in the first place.