President Muhammadu Buhari has restated his administration’s commitment to the rule of law and justice.
Buhari, who stated this in Lagos yesterday at the opening ceremony of the 59th edition of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Annual General Conference holding at Eko Hotels and Suites in Victoria Island, added that his government has demonstrated this commitment in many ways including accepting adverse court judgments without questions.
The President, who was represented by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), said his administration had ensured the independence of the judiciary.
Themed: “Facing the Future,” Malami, who declared the conference open on behalf of the President, reiterated the federal government’s resolve to probe the circumstances surrounding the failed power project leading to $9 billion arbitration award against Nigeria in favour of British firm, P&ID.
He said it’s a sad testimony when legal issues are handled ether in a compromised, ignorant or incompetent manner.
“Let me inform you that without prejudice to our right to challenge this award, Mr. President has already directed the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to take steps to ensure that all issues related to negotiation, signing, formation and obvious frustration of the purported contract are duly investigated and all persons and institutions, whether in the private or public sector, who acted in ways that have now caused our dear nation potential economic adversity and widespread opprobrium, are made to face the law and prosecution in the law court,” he said.
While noting that the conference represents the largest gathering of lawyers in the country, he noted that such meeting would go a long way to assist in nation building.
In his remarks, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, vowed to ensure the independence of judiciary without minding whose ox is gored.
Muhammad, who admitted that the judiciary is not truly independent especially at the state level since the executive arm is still in control of its funding, noted that the future of the Nigerian judiciary under his watch is bright and urged lawyers to join forces with the judiciary to achieve more.
The CJN said since his appointment he has focused on reinventing the processes of the judiciary, to ensure speedy justice dispensation and to rid the institution of corruption.
He said the Bar and the Bench must not only fly together, but must be seen to be flying together.
Muhammad warned lawyers to desist from the practice of filing needless appeals at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, adding that the Supreme Court would continue to punish blatant abuse of court process.
He said the judiciary, under his leadership would not lose its firm grip on the mantle of honesty, transparency and integrity.
He vowed to hold on to these three virtues, saying: “By the grace of Almighty God, I will tenaciously hold onto these even until that very moment of my last breath on earth,” he
said. In his goodwill message, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the state remains committed to the maintenance of law and order.
While welcoming the delegates to the states, Sawnwo-Olu who was represented by his Deputy, Dr. Femi Hamzat, noted that the NBA is properly placed to direct the affairs of legal practitioners.
He said the state would continue to collaborate with major stakeholders to ensure a realisation of its goals.
In his presentation, the keynote speaker, Horacio Bernardes Neto, who is the President of International Bar Association (IBA), urged Nigerian lawyers to brace up for digital disruption in order to remain relevant in the legal profession.
Neto said technology would certainly be the driving force of the future of every human endeavour.
He, however, allayed the fears that robot may soon replace lawyers, adding that “lawyers will not be replaced by robot, rather they will create the robot, because robot cannot strategise and give ideas.”
NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN, in his welcome address, said lawyers would continue to fight for the preservation of rule of law in Nigeria.