Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, says the directive of the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for lawyers to boycott courts for two days in protest against the suspension of Walter Onnoghen as chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) is a mockery of the legal profession.
NBA had on Monday announced this decision at its emergency national executive committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja.
Lawyers were, however, divided over this directive, and while proceedings went on in some courts, others were empty.
But speaking on Thursday at an interactive session organised by Citizen Forum in Lagos, Falana said the body of lawyers gave a wrong impression.
“So much for the law, we also must proceed to challenge the legal profession. I am talking of the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Nigerian Bar Association, for pretending that there was no problem,” he said.
“Nigerians have to be very mindful of this dangerous precedent, dangerous phenomenon whereby people are charged with very grave offenses pertaining to corruption and lawyers are mobilizing, Nigerian Bar Association is mobilizing lawyers and giving the dangerous impression that the person being tried is a freedom fighter.
“That is what is going on. Dancing and singing the praise of highly placed criminal elements in the society, this has to stop.
“You must challenge lawyers who go around making a mockery of our legal system, of our morality as a people. In this part of the world, in many parts of the world, if you were charged with stealing, your parents will ask you to go and defend yourself, you will almost be disowned. But when you now mobilise 50 lawyers, 90 lawyers, 150 senior advocates to defend somebody who has been charged with unlawful enrichment, you send a wrong message to Nigerians.
“In our condemning the removal of the chief justice, and the appointment of an acting chief justice contrary to the provisions of the constitution, we also must call on all those who judge other people who cannot explain the sources of their wealth to call it quit. That’s what is done in all civilised society, including Nigeria. So that we do not give the impression that we are behaving like Nigerians lawyers by simply condemning the procedure without also addressing the moral implications of the allegations.”
The senior advocate of Nigeria, who had argued that no court can stop a trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) also said Nigerians must rise up against the hypocrisy of those who laid the foundation for dictatorial rule in the country.
Accused of false assets declaration, Onnoghen is currently standing trial at the CCT.