The face-off between the immediate past Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi and members of the Port-Harcourt branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), is apparently not over yet even though the former has since left office. The Rivers State chapter of the NBA on Monday disrupted a session of the on-going annual conference of the law body in Abuja over an invitation extended to Ameachi to address them. The placard-carrying protesters opposed Ameachi’s presence on the ground that Amaechi’s government shut courts in the state for one year during his tenure.
The protest degenerated into brawl when Ameachi, who was the co-chairman of the session, wanted to speak and another group of lawyers challenged the protesters. For about 30 minutes, the NBA President, Augustine Alegeh (SAN), and security personnel had to plead with the protesters before order was restored and the continuation of the session, tagged: ” Public perception of lawyers; is the esteem justified?” Expressing his disappointment, the chairman of the session, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, said: “It is sad that people who claimed to be learned gentlemen are irresponsible.” Oshiomhole added, “This is the height of irresponsibility, lawyers shouting like touts.
My privileges have been violated, the rules of the professional conducts thrown to the dustbin. I could not differentiate between the touts in motor park Benin City and the lawyers”. Oshiomhole said that the scene must have been one of the most embarrassing moments for the Chief Judge of Kogi State, Justice Nasiru Ajana, who presented the lead paper. In his remark, when normalcy eventually returned, Ameachi said that while the disruption lasted he was telling his lawyer that it was politics and whether it would be proper to get others to disrupt any similar speech by his successor, Nyesom Wike. Earlier, Justice Ajana had listed public perception of lawyers to include liar, encourage impunity, promoter of injustice, desirous of high legal fees, and arrogance.
While stating that the public perception must be taken seriously, Justice Ajana said that reputable lawyers all over the world are known for promoting fundamental rights. Also in their contributions, all the speakers agreed that negative public perception of lawyers erodes confidence in the judicial system. They advised the lawyers to check the high legal fees and use their position as lawyers to improve the society. It would be recalled that a Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt on Thursday dismissed the suit filed by Amaechi, challenging the setting up of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe his administration. The State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, had constituted the Justice George Omereji-led judicial commission of inquiry to probe the sale of assets belonging to the state by the Amaechi administration.
But Amaechi had gone to court to challenge the setting up of the commission, the same judiciary his administration almost destroyed. However, Justice Simeon Amadi, who delivered judgment on suit number PHC/187/15, affirmed that the judicial commission of inquiry was not established to investigate the personal activities of the former governor. Justice Amadi added that the commission was established to investigate previous actions of government as they affected the people of the state.
According to him, Wike, by the provisions of the law, was empowered to establish the judicial commission of inquiry to investigate previous actions of government. Justice Amadi specifically said there was no law preventing a state government from finding out how her resources were expended. On the assertion by Amaechi that the 30 days set aside for the sitting of the judicial commission of inquiry would deny him fair hearing, Justice Amadi maintained that the number of days set aside for the commission did not breach his (Amaechi) right to fair hearing.
According to him, since Amaechi had yet to file a memorandum before the commission and had not appeared before it, the former governor cannot complain of not being given a fair hearing. The court stated that 30 days set aside for the commission of inquiry was not sacrosanct and could be extended. He pointed out that the former governor was not on trial, saying, “The Judiciary is not only the last hope of the common man, but it is also the last hope of the mighty movers and shakers of democracy.
Those who, by the benevolence of the judiciary, got to power should resist the temptation to emasculate the judiciary.” However, the Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Emmanuel Aguma, explained that with the court ruling, the commission of inquiry could begin its sitting and promised that it would be fair to all parties. Meanwhile, the embattled former governor may have accepted the ruling by the Federal High Court in Port-Harcourt to investigate the activities of his government.
Amaechi who was fighting to stop the Rivers state government from probing his government spoke in a very low spirit in a private chat with his kinsmen said, “Jonathan is the cause of all these crises in Rivers State. Today is either I’m going for Wike’s head or Wike is coming for my head. President Buhari has said, that anyone who has a case to answer will not work with him.
And that’s fine by me. Let me say this again and again. “Where I am today, is by the grace of God. And if God says, Amaechi you won’t go beyond this; none of us here can change that, including myself. So I’m not desperate for appointment. You were all here when Bode George was convicted for 2 years and eventually released by the Supreme Court. Cecelia Ibru was convicted for $1.2 billion dollars.
And she served jail term for only six months. I even feel the laws on graft are too lenient for criminals in this country. If you gave me just 5 percent of what Cecelia stole, I would have served the jail term for her. And how much are they even accusing me of stealing? Seriously speaking, I’m not afraid of serving jail term.” With this development, political watchers argue that Amaechi has no reason to be afraid if his hands are clean.
-The Rivers State chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), may have taken its ‘pound of flesh’ from ex-governor Chibuike Amaechi, for almost destroying the judiciary in the state, writes Peterclaver Egbochue