The yearly general meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which opened yesterday in Lagos State with the theme: ‘Bold Transitions’, offered the leading presidential candidates the platform to share their ‘bold visions’ for 2023, signposting what to expect as campaigns officially begin next month.
Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); former Lagos governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC); former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, of Labour Party (LP); Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate, Adewole Adebayo; former Chief Judge of Anambra and candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof. Peter Umeadi and Dumebi Kachikwu of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), all took turns to share their thoughts and plans for Nigeria’s greatness at the 62nd NBA conference held at Eko Hotel and Suites.
Earlier, award-winning novelist, Chimamanda Adichie, in her keynote address, said Nigerians, especially young citizens, do not have enough leaders to look up to in the current system. She said: “We are starved of heroes. Our young people do not find people to look up to anymore.”
The speaker said it was important for everyone to speak out against injustice and tyranny, even if they were called troublemakers. She added that a bold transition must embrace audacity and innovation.
“They have called me troublesome. Although it is never enjoyable to be called troublesome, I never set out to provoke for its sake. I refuse to silence myself for the fear of what I might inadvertently provoke. It has always been important to me to say what I believe, to call out injustice.
“Federal and state security dragging journalists to prison is tyranny. A journalist ill-treating his domestic staff is tyranny. The rape of young boys and girls is also tyranny. It is tyranny when state governments do not pay pensioners until they slump and die as broken people. The physical harassment of lawyers and some judges is tyranny. The use of the law by some people to oppress the poor is tyranny.”
Adiche said Nigerians must be fair in their criticisms before peace can thrive. She said they should become responsible before holding the leaders responsible.
“As long as we refuse to untangle the knot of injustice, peace cannot thrive. If we don’t talk about it, we fail to hold leaders accountable and we turn what should be transparent systems into ugly opaque cults.
“My experience made me think there’s something dead in us, in our society; a death of self-awareness and ability for self-criticism.
“There’s a need for resurrection. We cannot avoid self-criticism but criticise the government. We cannot hide our own institutional failure while demanding transparency from the government.”
In her closing remarks, she advocated for an uncorrupted judicial system and called on the NBA to leverage technology in judicial process and the administration of justice in the country.
She said: “Nigerians are disillusioned because they know of the decline of professionalism in some sections of the legal profession. As the NBA continues to fight the abuse of power, it must also look inward not to be corrupted.
“One way is to simplify legal procedure. We deny justice when we delay justice. Technology should also be used. It is time for the full use of technology in the administration of justice.”
The conference is held between August 19 to 26. NBA president, Mr Olumide Akpata, charged lawyers to embrace innovative approaches to legal practice while continuing to serve as the conscience of the public.
LEADING the presidential candidates to unveil their leadership agenda, PDP’s Atiku lamented that every negative thing now happens in the country, saying since 1999, Nigeria had never experienced this level of poverty, insecurity and unemployment.
“Since the return of democracy in 1998/99, Nigeria has never found itself in such a very critical point in our history. Today, we have had all the negative indices. Today, we are all disunited in the nation. We have never experienced this level of poverty, insecurity and unemployment. We have recognised all these negative developments in our history.”
Atiku added that history now beckons on Nigerians to tackle the negative developments. “This is where history and experience beckon on us to make sure that we don’t get it wrong at this point, otherwise, I don’t know when we will ever get it right.
“I have been involved in the struggle to return democracy to this country in the time of military days. In fact, I can even say I was lucky to be alive because so many of my contemporaries were killed in this struggle but by the grace of God I have survived till this point in time,” he said.
Speaking on his bold policy if elected into office, Atiku said: “My bold policy framework will embody Unity, Security, Economy, Education and Devolution of power to states and local governments.
“Known by the acronym Unity-SEED, these five policy prescriptions are interconnected. A new Nigeria of our dreams is possible in the hands of a bold man of experience.”
For presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Obi, 2023 elections will not be about connections, tribe or religion, but about competence, character and commitment to deliver.
He said: “Remember, the elections we are going to have next year will not be about tribe, not religion, not connection, not entitlement, but about character, competence, capacity and commitment to deliver. And the candidate must be able to tackle all the important areas aggressively for a greater economy.
“We got here simply because of the accumulative effect of bad leadership. We need a bold transition from a highly insecure state to a highly secured state.”
He added that Nigeria is qualified to be classified as a failed state. “One of the characteristics of a failed state is when you are no longer in charge of your territory. Today, we are among the top terrorized countries in the world.
“We are among the top kidnapping countries in the world, banditry has taken over part of the country and Nigerians are being killed daily. We have met two of three criteria for a failed state.
“We have 80 percent of our oil stolen. In July alone, if you calculate it, we’ve lost over N1 trillion oil revenue to stealing. Nigeria is the only country apart from Venezuela, which is not meeting the OPEC quota.”
According to the former Anambra governor, investment in intangible assets such as education and power are critical for economic renaissance.
“What we need to do is the two most intangible assets: security and law and order. We need to provide a conducive environment to attract investors, then education and power because the economy is driven by these intangible assets,” he said.
APC vice-presidential candidate, Kashim Shettima, who represented Tinubu at the event, assured Nigerians that the party would replicate the ‘wonders’ of Borno and Lagos states if elected in 2023.
The former governor of Borno State disclosed that he built some of the best schools in the state during his tenure. He said Tinubu’s administration would address the issues of the economy and security, among others.
According to Shettima: “Nigerians have the capability to see through the worn-out rhetoric and sophistry of pretentious politicians. Nigerians should follow the man who knows the road. From day one, we will hit the ground running. We’ll promptly address the issue of the economy, ecology and security.
“Our vision is to grow the economy by diversification of our foreign export. Ours is to change the nation’s value chain in oil and gas. And we have the antecedents. I built some of the best schools in Nigeria. Go to Borno and see wonders; you will never believe that it is a state in a state of war.
“So, we are going to replicate our achievements in Lagos, in Borno and some of the frontline states so that our nation will be a better place. The fundamental issue is pure leadership.”
SDP candidate, Adewole, said the first thing he will do is to curb stealing. “We must put money in the production sector to grow the country’s economy. Nigeria must move from consumption to producing country.”
For Umeadi, he said he will remove his personal interest and build the economy. “In Jim Ovia’s words, the sole barometer for assessing people is your level of competence and your input. In the history of Zenith Bank, no one – I dare say – apart from the legendary Ada Umeji, grew faster in the history of Zenith Bank than my humble self. And that is what I am bringing to the table.”
MEANWHILE, human right activist, Femi Falana (SAN), has urged lawyers to adopt urgent measures to end illegal arrest and detention of innocent citizens by the police and other law enforcement agencies.
He also urged the 125 branches of the NBA to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which has abolished arrest and detention of citizens for civil wrong and breach of contract.
According to him, the law has also made provision for legal representation of suspects in police stations, bail for suspects and humane treatment of detained suspects.
In a statement yesterday, while welcoming lawyers to Lagos for the conference, Falana advised them to direct the members of the Human Rights Committee and its branches to accompany Chief Magistrates during the monthly visits to all police stations in the country.
Such visits, he said, would end the incessant arrest and detention of suspects and other people as the Magistrates are empowered to grant bail to suspects, order their release or direct that they be arraigned in appropriate courts. His words: “Let the NBA leadership pressurise the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to designate judges to conduct monthly visits to the detention facilities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), ICPC, NDLEA, Customs, armed forces, State Security Service in line with the provisions of section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and section 70 of the Police Establishment Act.
“Nigerian lawyers should apply the provisions of the Anti Torture Act, 2017 to end the torture of suspects and other people in Nigeria. Let the police and other law enforcement officers be made to know that the penalty for subjecting suspects to torture is 25 years imprisonment and that officers who torture suspects to death are liable to be tried for murder. In addition to the prosecution of torturers the victims of torture are entitled to sue for monetary compensation.
Falana further urged Nigerian lawyers to provide pro bono legal services to indigent citizens with genuine complaints.
“Instead of rejecting the complaints of indigent citizens on account of impecuniosities, lawyers should refer them to the offices of the Legal Aid Council, National Human Rights Commission and the Public Defender in each of the States of the Federation,” he said. (Guardian)