The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike has said judges in the country are under political pressure to please some vested interests.
The governor, who spoke at the 61st Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Conference in Port Harcourt, on Monday, maintained that with such pressure no excellence can be achieved in the nation’s judicial system.
He charged lawyers in the country to engage in judicial activism, saying it was a deliberate measure to address the slow dispensation of justice and attempts to stifle the rights of the citizenry.
Wike also berated the NBA for focusing less on promoting and fighting for the values of good governance, democracy, judicial independence, human rights and the rule of law when there was urgent need for them to do so.
According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari‘s administration and the security apparatus in the country have violated the rights of the citizens.His words: “The invasion on personal liberty has been brazen and indiscriminate, such that even judges of the superior courts, including Supreme Court justices, have in the recent past been victims of midnight assaults on their premises and subjection to unlawful arrests and imprisonments.
“Never in our political history has Nigeria been so badly governed and denied of good governance with the federal government woefully failing in its basic duties to provide for the wellbeing and security of its citizens as we have experienced in the last six years. “Daily, the economic, social and political rights, including the rights to personal security, freedom of speech, association, dissent and peaceful protests, as well as the right to personal liberty are being violated with impunity by the present central administration and its security apparatus.
“Lately, the new devious trend is to tag security risks to innocent Nigerians and opposition elements and use the Immigration Authority to seize their international passports without a prior court order.” Furthermore, the governor said it was time for stakeholders to work collectively towards building a strong legal system that is well-resourced, independent and effective in the administration of justice.
Remarking, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad charged the NBA to lead the crusade to address the poor condition of service of national judicial officers.
He noted that the administration of justice in the country was being hampered by the assault that litigants, especially politicians and some lawyers, launch on the judiciary when their ends are not met.
Represented by the Chief Justice of the state, Mary Odili, the CJN urged the NBA to take measures to discipline its erring members who do not only ridicule the judiciary but also abuse its processes. Justice Muhammad expressed his belief that the peace of the country now rests on the balance of the scale of justice, especially as Nigeria faces the challenges of kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, agitations for secession and resource control.
On his part, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah, said it had been difficult to review the nation’s constitution in a manner that meets the current aspirations of Nigerians, citing the poor quality of those saddled with the responsibility.
“Our politicians must become very careful and more circumspect. If we are going to take a lesson away from Boko Haram, from banditry, from where we find ourselves now, is that there is an urgent need for politicians to become more restrained in their involvement with religion. Because their religious identity remains a very troubling identity,” he said.