The Nigerian Bar Association on Friday bemoaned the “pervasive insecurity of lives and property in the land” and what it described as “systematic erosion” of the independence of the judiciary.
The association said judges and lawyers had been so intimidated and blackmailed by the Federal Government that they nursed the fear of being visited with “inquisitorial terror” should they rule against government or take briefs considered to be anti-government.
The NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), said this in a speech he delivered and unanimously adopted by the National Executive Committee of the association at its meeting held on Thursday. The speech was made available to journalists on Friday.
Usoro said the level of insecurity in the country and the attack on the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession constituted a threat to the rule of law, and by extension the country’s democracy.
He said, “Without the rule of law and security of lives and property, society gradually descends into a state of anarchy and democracy becomes a mere pretension. Democracy itself cannot survive without the rule of law.
“These twin elements – rule of law and security of lives and property – are what drive society and the economy. It would be revealing if we were to have proper and verified statistics on the investment opportunities that have been lost by Nigeria because of these twin pervasive challenges: insecurity and the erosion of the rule of law.
Usoro also said the climate of fear instilled by the Federal Government undermined the independence of the judiciary and the ability of the judges to act confidently without fear or favour in dispensing justice.
He said, “Our judges are threatened, intimidated and blackmailed mostly by the executive arm of government and their agencies both at the federal and state levels. So, we have judges literally walking on egg-shells, notably where governments and their agencies have interest in matters that they adjudicate upon.”