It is a common saying in law that no man can be deemed to be guilty unless and only when he is furnished with a fair hearing. The principle of fair hearing is one of the great tenets of the legal profession anywhere where justice and equity is held in high esteem. Currently, our respected Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has been in the news because of the decision of the National Executive Council (NEC) to squash the name of Governor Nasir elrufai of Kaduna State from its list of speakers for its annual conference.
It is learnt that the learned NEC of the Association is responding to some petitions against the Kaduna state helmsman by some members of the Bar given his reported penchant for violating rule of law as well as the outrageous security situation in Southern Kaduna with several loss of lives.
I was born and raised in Kaduna, Southern Kaduna to be precise, I witnessed the killings there, while growing up and I will be the happiest person to see these senseless killings come to an end and of course, the Governor of the State, being the Chief Security Officer of the state should held accountable.
While everything possible must be done by leadership and members of the Bar to protect its hard-earned reputation as the vanguard of human rights, it is important that we shield the association from being enmeshed in the pungent politics going on out there, except where necessary.
As a Learned and professional body, it is vital that we engage people in power where ordinary people on the streets shun them. It is courage; not fear. It is neither condonement too, especially if our stands are known and well-articulated. As part of the third realm of the estate, the association especially has the mandate to use various legal instruments such as diplomacy, lobby, strikes, suits, press releases, parleys, among others, to bring light to socio-economic issues. Thus, the tools available to us are innumerable, and so we must resist the urge to tow the familiar, predictable terrain of reactionary engagement which seemingly has not yield much.
It is incumbent upon me to remind us that as Lawyers, by our training, we are not professionals given to emotional interpretation and response to matters. Our training mandates us to be very objective and focused. The reason even a man deemed to have committed the most horrendous crime is permitted to have legal representation by us in court and the Right to be heard. The essence is to test the seeming facts and engage the available evidence to see if they can withstand close scrutiny to avoid the ordinary, pedestrian sentencing of people.
It is my belief that the invitation which was previously extended to Mallam Nasir El Rufai to speak at our conference should have provided an auspicious opportunity to engage and interact with him on the many allegations leveled against him – except if we consider him already guilty as charged! More like JUNGLE JUSTICE. I would have loved to see him answer to questions of lack of respect for rule of law and lawyers right before lawyers!
It must be said that I respect the sanctity of human lives and also value the rule of law as the principle behind progressive societies. However, our respected body must be warier of taking decisions on contemporary socio-political issues that have underlying ethno-religious currents to avoid polarizing the body, owing to our diversity.
It is my hope that the NBA will explore possible avenues to still engage the governor of Kaduna State on many of these allegations and see how solutions can be applied on the perceived issues. The Bar, not only the Bench, has a corporate responsibility to ensure justice both to the perceived oppressed and the seeming oppressor. And there is no better place to ensure this than in the ordinary business of the Bar.
MY NAME IS FASHE OLAKUNLE, ESQ AND THIS IS JUST MY TWO (2) CENTS