At the recent Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Dialogue, several issues were discussed on the way forward for Nigeria as the country prepares for the 2023 general elections.
The main theme of the dialogue, anchored by the NBA president, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), revolved around security, economy and the administration of justice.
The NBA invited presidential candidates of all political parties to engage participants on their programmes.
A panel of experts in thematic areas was also invited for participation.
Personnel won’t boycott elections despite unpaid allowances – NSCDC
Bullion vans shouldn’t determine election outcome – Atiku
NBA and UN opening speeches
A major highlight of the dialogue was the NBA president’s apology to Nigerians by the NBA for failure to provide leadership for Nigerians, with a vow to enhance the body’s participation in Nigeria’s electoral process.
Maikyau said, “I dare say, with the utmost respect, that to a large extent, our experience today as a country is a direct result of the legal profession’s abdication of the duty to provide direction and leadership to the people.
“I must therefore, as one who is privileged to lead the Bar at this time, apologise to Nigerians for the abdication of our role.
“Today, as members of the Bar, we are reputed more for how much fees we charge our clients as opposed to the discharge of our primary call to offer guidance and/or offer ourselves for the advancement of the cause of our country.
“This apology is necessary because no other group of professionals is called to this privileged position as the lawyers, which also comes with corresponding responsibility to provide leadership.”
Emphasising this during a press briefing, Maikyau said members of the Bar who misconducted themselves while participating in the resolution of electoral disputes will face disciplinary action at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPPC) and the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC).
“As members of the legal profession, serving either on the bench or bar, we owe Nigerians sincere and honest participation in the process,” Maikyau said.
“We must do all that is legitimately within our abilities, motivated by the desire to serve the course of justice, to ensure that the relevant laws and rules, properly interpreted and applied, remain the guiding principles for our involvement in the process.”
The NBA president also commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the efforts to conduct free, fair and credible elections for Nigerians and pledged support to ward off any attempt to undermine the integrity of the electoral process and its neutrality.
The Deputy Secretary of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed advocated for those seeking offices in Nigeria’s election to focus on building strong institutions, access to justice, women and gender inclusion as contained in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the global body.
She charged the NBA to remain impartial arbiters to ensure a fair and just adjudication of electoral disputes and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure a smooth electoral process by improving the transparency, accountability and credibility of the Nigerian electoral process.
“The increase in the number of registered voters from 84 million to 93 million is encouraging and suggests that Nigerians are enthusiastic about the electoral process,” she said.
She noted, however, that attacks on the electoral facilities, fake news, hate speech based on religious and ethnic identities and violence against electoral candidates have soared since the campaigns started, and called on lawyers to do more.
“Finally, our common objective is to support a process leading to credible, inclusive and peaceful elections; as the candidates demonstrate the willingness to create the necessary conditions for this to happen,” she added.
Experts call for security reforms
On the insecurity bedevilling the country, retired Brig. General Abubakar Hanafi Sa’ad, who called for the installation of CCTV cameras across the country, said “We need to attack the root causes because there are grievances in every community.”
The newly appointed chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Solomon Arase, a retired Inspector General of Police, called for incentivising police for more effective policing.
He said policing should be intelligence-driven not just road blocks.
He called for proper welfare for families of deceased personnel of the police, adding that he incorporated scholarships for children of officers who died in active services.
Retired Group Captain Sadeeq Garba Shehu linked insecurity to the quality of governance while calling for reforms in the security of the country.
Economists differ on fuel subsidy removal
During the session on the economic agenda for the presidential candidates, the debate over the propriety of the fuel subsidy regime was at the centre stage of the discussions.
Dr Emeka Okengwu said the country should remove subsidies and deregulate the petroleum sector to strengthen the currency, arguing that other countries like South Africa have opened up the energy sector to include cleaner, alternative sources like hydrogen and thermal wave energy, instead of fuel.
“Any time we got into recession was because we couldn’t sell oil and anytime we came out of recession was because we could sell oil, it is as elementary as that,” he said.
Comrade Bala Zakka said the removal of subsidies would lead to the collapse of SMEs in the country, explaining that it is like creating a wound before looking for the solutions with the risk of it becoming cancerous.
“Modular refineries can never reach our excess supply concern because they are not equipped,” he said.
Legal experts seek more transparency in judiciary
Legal experts, Dr Babatunde Ajibade (SAN), Olawale Fapohounda (SAN) and Huwaila Muhammad spoke on the need for more reforms in the judiciary.
Ajibade said recommendations have been made to make judiciary budgeting more transparent while seeking more funding for the judiciary.
Ajibade said, “The judiciary has also consistently maintained that its books are open and that the executive has the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, has officers in each of the courts and so it cannot be right to say that the books are not open.
“So, what the NBA has resolved is that we cannot continue with this. Let us have a round table, let the executive and the judiciary, with the NBA play the role of an interested third party, let us sit down at a roundtable and resolve this issue.”
Presidential candidates speak on programmes
Among the presidential candidates present were that of the Action Alliance (AA), Hamza Al Mustapha; African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore; Action Democratic Congress (ADC), Dumebi Kachikwu and Action Democratic Party’s (ADP) Sani Yabagi Yusuf. Also present were the All Progressives Grand Alliance’s (APGA) candidate, Peter Umeadi; Social Democratic Party (SDP), Prince Adewole Adebayo and Young Progressives Party’s (YPP), Prince Malik Ado-Ibrahim.
However, the presidential candidates of the APC, Bola Tinubu, the Labour Party’s (LP), Peter Obi; the New Nigeria Peoples Party’s (NNPP), Musa Kwankwaso; and the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP), Atiku Abubakar were all absent, while Tinubu sent Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Hassan Liman to represent him.
Speaking on his plans, Nwanyanwu pledged to deploy technology to rid the country of insecurity.
On his part, Ado-Ibrahim said he will address insecurity from the root causes, which include poverty, injustice, education, etc.
For his part, Umeadi assured that he will revive the Ajaokuta Steel Complex if elected.
Adebayo said he will improve funding for security if elected.
Liman maintained that Tinubu believes in the rule of law and the revival of Nigeria’s economy.
Yabagi Yusuf pledged to focus on the energy transitions and the projects that would equip Nigerian youths for the fourth industrial revolution.
Al-Mustapha said Nigeria is facing serious threats despite being blessed across all the regions.
Sowore said he will fight corruption and end the oppression of the masses.