NBA, Sowore’s case, Politics and Karma- Anthony Atata

An Igbo adage says that if you dont know where the rain started beating you, you won’t know where it will stop.

Many lawyers in recent times following the events of Sowore’s case have either ignorantly or maliciously pretended that they did not know how the NBA got to where it is presently. In their ignorance or malice, they have tried to manipulate the NBA into taking actions that may be inconsistent with the nobility of the profession which they will turn around to either criticise or sabotage. The NBA under Paul Usoro I believe has done some growing up.

All I see in these whole saga is a case of the Chicken coming home to roost. The chicken here being some of my learned colleagues and seniors.
I have said it before and i will say it again: I do not have any sympathy for Sowore, I am only concerned that his ordeal is causing an unprecedented assault on the Justice system.
On the other hand, we will be deceiving ourselves if we continue to pretend that we do not know how we got here especially in recent times.
Not many will know that Sowore’s case is a proxy war between the DSS and EFCC. While Sowore and his lawyer are perceived to be close to the EFCC, the DSS is trying to prove a point that many of us may not be aware of. The cold war has been on since the DSS stalled the confirmation of the EFCC top man. Anyway, that is by the way.
Lest we forget, assault on the Judiciary in Nigeria is even older than Nigeria but I will concentrate on recent events.
I make bold to say that if we use the responsiveness of the NBA to National issues especially the ones relating to the justice system as the only criteria, Paul Usoro will come out as the greatest President of post crisis NBA; I will explain as you read.

In October 2016, Law enforcement agents in a commando style invaded Supreme Court Judges at midnight, pulled them out of their houses and accused them of corruption (they are still trying to prove those allegations and some have been acquitted). In my view, that is not just where the rainy season began for us in recent times, it has been the heaviest down pour so far.
The NBA at that time took no practical step. Many Lawyers, mostly senior Lawyers canvassed their positions on the issue according to their political and ethnic leanings validating the actions of the Directorate of State Security (DSS). For your information, Paul Usoro was not the President of the NBA at that time. A President of the Court of Appeal was removed and the Bar did nothing. Paul Usoro was not the NBA President then.
Then a bitter election in the NBA came in 2018, one of the teams that lost rushed to invite the EFCC to investigate the NBA election. I repeat, EFCC to investigate the NBA election! An election they don’t have business investigating. We thereby shamelessly surrendered our “Sovereignty” to a law enforcement agency.
In 2018, the NBA President was arraigned in a matter relating to receiving his legal fees from a Governor whom he(and other lawyers) worked for, some of these Seniors (some still nursing the pains of the election defeat) said that it was his personal problem. In a case that portends danger, a case that will give audacity to law enforcement agents to question or regulate how lawyers receive their legitimate earnings. They said it was a personal problem of the NBA President. These incidents kept the rain and lawyers were being soaked as they danced naked in the rain.
Of course the case of Dasuki has gone cold in the oven.
Paul Usoro was sworn in as the President of the NBA at a time the leadership of the executive arm of government was trying to tell the whole country and the world that the rule of law can play a second fiddle. Paul Usoro’s inaugural address made it clear that lawyers will not take any of that.Painfully,some lawyers did not only buy it,they tried to resell it to us. We continued dancing naked in the rain.
The case of Onnoghen comes to mind. Paul Usoro called for a boycott of courts for three days. We know what happened and how the disunity in the Bar became apparent.

I make bold to say and I stand to be corrected that the Paul Usoro led NBA boycott against the black market removal of the former CJN was the biggest mass action the NBA at the National level has ever taken in post crisis NBA.

The NBA under Paul Usoro has issued strong statements in ALL issues affecting Lawyers and the Judiciary. The administration has once called for a boycott and has resisted the attempt to redefine the rule of Law as being secondary to some selfish considerations of government. This is unprecedented in post crises NBA that began in 1998 .
In the street parlance, some lawyers will ask “who press release epp”. I find that amusing because I think lawyers who ask that question sometimes confuse us as Danfo drivers and conductors. Lawyers have a way of responding to issues and under Paul Usoro, the NBA has shown fidelity to responding to issues in line with how lawyers should do things.
We as lawyers have been speaking with both sides of our mouth. That is how we got here. Period!
The rain will continue to beat us if we continue to remain inconsistent with our creed for selfish, political, ethnic and religious reasons.
Femi Falana, SAN, a big brand in Nigeria’s legal profession has previously taken some positions that have been interpreted as supporting the actions of Law enforcement agents thereby giving them audacity, Omoleye Sowore has in his publications promoted the impunity of Law enforcement agents and one of the most respected teachers of our time disregarding the sacred principle of presumption of innocence advised that the NBA President should resign when the law enforcement agents in their overzealousness brought one of the most ridiculous charges I have ever seen in my life.
The Chicken has indeed come home to roost. In Sowore’s case, Falana whose statements have been interpreted to give audacity to the overzealousness of Law enforcement agents is the Lawyer defending a man who has used his publication to promote impunity being tried in the Courtroom of (“from what I heard”) the wife of the great Teacher who once opined, disregarding the principle of presumption of innocence that an accused person should vacate his seat just because some overzealous law enforcement agents decided to do what they know best.
Karma they say, is a bitch.
The lesson many of us do not seem to be taking home is that, Sowore’s case has once more shown how our utterances as lawyers can affect us adversely. As lawyers, we must be consistent at all times regardless of the relationship we have with the victim. We should learn not to turn summersault in our opinions according to who is involved. The reason is simple; if we must remain in Law Practice,we are all potential victims of these law enforcement agents and God forbid that they will use our previous statements to support their case against us.
It is never too late to start afresh.

Anthony Atata

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