The Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA) has charged the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to maintain its independence and integrity in the conduct of the presidential, governorship and national assembly elections.
The NBA President, Mr Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, made the call on Tuesday in Abuja while addressing a news conference on the state of the nation.
Maikyau also pledged the NBA’s support within its legal powers to protect the integrity of the electoral process.
“I commend INEC for all that it is doing to deliver a free, fair, and credible election to Nigerians.
” I charge INEC to maintain its independence as we unequivocally, as a bar, declare our support to help ward off any attempt to undermine the integrity of the electoral process and neutrality of INEC,” Maikyau said.
To this end, the NBA President decried a situation where the Akwa Ibom branch of the association endorsed a candidate in the forthcoming elections.
” My attention was drawn to a social media publication that the NBA in Akwa Ibom has endorsed a candidate in the forthcoming election.
” I took time to verify the information and I have confirmation that this indeed took place.
“I want to say in no unclear terms that we condemn the action of the few members who embarked on such despicable and disgraceful conduct using the platform of the NBA.
“That declaration was not made for or with the authority of the NBA, It is disgusting and I have already instructed the First Vice President NBA who is leading the NBA Election Monitoring Group, to immediately exclude all the branches of the NBA in Akwa Ibom from participating in the monitoring of the forthcoming election.”
The NBA President said that the exclusion would be communicated to INEC forthwith and members involved in the conduct would also face disciplinary action as may be determined by the NBA.
He reiterated that the NBA was not partisan and not a political party but representative of the people and would remain neutral at all times.
He commended INEC for extending the deadline for the collection of Permanent Voter Cards, (PVCs) saying it was a clear indication of the commission’s readiness and willingness to give every eligible Nigerian the opportunity to exercise his/her franchise.
The NBA boss also said that while ensuring that lawyers were not intimidated by the political class, sanctions would be meted out on any erring lawyer or judicial officer.
“While we shall stand with the courts and do everything legal to protect the integrity of the bench against any form of intimidation by the political class, any person or group of persons, we will not hesitate to call out and pursue disciplinary action(s) against erring judicial officials.
“Similarly, members of the bar who misconduct themselves while participating in the resolution of electoral disputes will face disciplinary action at the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) and the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC), where Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) are involved.”
The president again reiterated his apology to Nigerians for what he said was an abdication of responsibility on the part of the legal profession.
“According to him, it is my firm persuasion that if we had acted under the influence of the spirit behind the profound statement referred to in my remarks, our experience as a nation would have been different.
“We would certainly not have been faced with the current socio-economic and political challenges.
“The legal profession, to a great extent, has not held government accountable on behalf of the people of this nation, and this does not necessarily mean being confrontational with government.
He, however, said that there were times when it was necessary and inevitable to go into confrontations to drive home certain points or achieve certain desired goals and objectives for the common good of the people.
He referred to the dialogue on the state of the nation the association held on Monday and said that resolutions reached would be articulated and sent to all presidential candidates.
“At the dialogue, we invited all the presidential candidates to talk to the nation on our platform on their plans for Nigeria should they emerge victorious at the polls on three thematic areas of security, economy and administration of justice.
“We shall as NBA, articulate our position arising from the state-of-the-nation dialogue on the various subjects, on behalf of Nigerians and make same available to all the presidential candidates before the elections.
He added that the NBA would use the report to go back periodically to hold whoever emerged as president accountable to Nigerians.