Nigerians from all walks alive rose to the defence of the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), Ikeja Branch whose secretariat was occupied Wednesday night by the police in a bid to arrest the Branch Chairman, Adesina Ogunlana.
As at press time, many lawyers have risen to defend the branch except the national body of the association whose silence has remained deafening.
A Nigerian, Aikpoko Martins condemned the national body saying they have connived with authorities to oppress Nigerians.
He said: “The national body and the branches themselves are the cause. Apart from Ikeja branch, which other branch has been vibrant in recent times? It is not rocket science to know that if the national and the other branches are docile, it will be a matter of time to take Ikeja out. This is because the police are fortified in the knowledge that the NBA will not even bark no matter the assault on the Bar. This docility and complacence of the Bar is what is endangering Ikeja branch. I had thought that by this morning, I will be seeing a directive from the NBA President or Branch Chairmen calling out members to boycott the courts and organize protests nationally and put the police under pressure. But what do we have; silence!
Meanwhile other groups have condemned the police siege.
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) through its Executive Director ,Emmanuel Onwubiko stated: “We hereby condemn the invasion a while ago of the Ikeja secretariat of the Nigerian Bar Association by the police in an arbitrary plot to arrest the officials for speaking out against the oppressive policies of the Gov. Ambode’s tax crazy contraption called administration;
The Nigeria Police must abide by the due process of the law and must not allow the institution to be used as armed thugs of politicians. The fundamental rights of all Nigerians to freely associate and assemble to protest are constitutionally guaranteed under chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution. We call on all Nigerians to condemn this outrageous resort to primitive self help measures by the governor of Lagos who is bent on impoverishing the good people of Lagos state. Enough is Enough!”
Veteran Human Rights and Labour activist, Femi Aborisade said: “The APC Federal Government should bury its head in shame for suppressing the NBA Ikeja branch from exercising a constitutionally donated or guaranteed right of movement and peaceful protest against imposition of harsh land use charge;
The Police should know that the right of peaceful protest cannot be subjected to the whims and caprices of the police. The NPF and the APC Federal Government stand condemned for depriving the NBA Ikeja branch the fundamental right to peaceful protest. The APC is a party that came to power on the wave of mass protests against the ruinous economic policies of the PDP regime. We reject and condemn the undemocratic attacks on the right to peaceful protest! Vacate NBA Ikeja Branch office now! I call on mass organisations to stage peaceful solidarity protests at the NBA Ikeja Bar office. Let the protests they seek to ban begin now!!
Former General Secretary of NBA Mazi Adam Osigwe said the siege is an affront on democracy and the rule of law.
“The Gestapo approach deployed by the police is highly regrettable. Lawyers and indeed Nigerians must be allowed to protest without any form of intimidation by the police or any other security agency;
I call on the police to release Mr. Adesina Ogunlana if he is still detained and not in any manner whatsoever fetter the rights of the lawyers to protest. To do otherwise would be unconstitutional;
Respect for the rights of the citizenry is one of the bedrock of the rule of law. We must learn to respect the rights of others to hold a view we do not agree with”.
A Senior Advocate, Arthur Obi Okafor also in a release stated: “Last night, our collective faith in the tenets of democracy, which include the freedom of expression and association was assaulted as armed policemen laid siege on the premises of the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association;
It is very unfortunate that at this period of our democracy, the police still believe in the application of force to prevent the citizenry from exercising their constitutional right of freedom of expression.Such actions make a mockery of our hard earned democracy and amount to a violation of the citizens’ fundamental rights;
While not advocating that lawyers are above the law of the land, it is my firm view that there are productive means of engaging the Ikeja branch of the NBA and the citizenry in resolving whatever dispute is on ground. Threat, coercion, arrest and laying siege on the premises of the branch are absolutely not part of such means and are unacceptable;
As custodians of justice and promoters of the rule of law, members of the Ikeja branch of the NBA and every Nigerian citizen reserves the right to fight for the protection of the rights of the common man and speak up for the voiceless in our society within the ambit of the law. The police under whatever guise should not attempt to prevent the peaceful expression of such right, as any attempt is an assault on our hard earned democracy and a promotion of tyranny”.