Lawyers have frowned at the decision of security operatives who have continued to prevent their colleagues from having access to the courtrooms during trials. They stressed that the courtroom is the “temple of justice” for lawyers; hence they can’t be barred from having access.
They noted that shutting lawyers out of courtrooms is tantamount to suspending the judicial arm of government from functioning.
Recall that the Department of State Services, DSS, had on Tuesday barred some lawyers from having access into the courtroom for the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, at the Abuja Federal High Court.
Some lawyers including Kanu’s legal representatives from the United States, Fein we’re denied access into the courtroom, a situation that led Justice Binta Nyako to adjourn the matter till January, 2022.
However, an Abuja-based human right lawyer, Maduabuchi Idam, has condemned the prevention of lawyers from gaining access into the courtroom on the 10th of November 2021.
Idam described such an action as an aberration and impunity committed by the executive arm against the fundamental human rights of the entire Nigerian people.
Idam noted that the “act is an infringement on the rights to liberty of lawyers and also a deprivation of rights of Nigerian citizens to counsel as guaranteed under sections 35 and 36 (6),(C) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as Amended) respectively.”
He stated that, “barring lawyers from accessing the courtroom is tantamount to suspending the entire judicial arm of government, as the courts cannot function without lawyers to present and advocate the cause of their clients.”
According to Idam: “I dare say that the action is not just undemocratic but an invitation of anarchy, lawlessness, and a sign of total breakdown of peace and order which will ultimately affect not just lawyers but the Nigerian people at large. These and many more brazen executive rascality are characteristics of a failed state”.
He continued by saying “I shed tears each time I imagine what will be the image of Nigeria before the international scene as no democratic system any where in the world can support such primitive abuse of power.
“Just a few days ago, precisely on the 19th of October 2021, the people of Nigeria woke up to the news of the invasion of the home of a justice of the Supreme Court, My Lord Hon. Justice Marry Odili by state sponsored miscreants, and here is another shameful act of the state by barring lawyers from accessing the court rooms through the machineries of the executive.
“These and many more irresponsible actions of this government has continued to demarket Nigeria at the international scene, thereby reducing the country’s chances of attracting either foreign investment or portfolio investment as no sane investor will consider a country like Nigeria for investment, a country where banditry has taken over, a country where independence of the judiciary is not guaranteed, a country where a lawyer is not at liberty to access the court and plead the cause of his client, such an investor will be running a serious risk of losing his investment knowing that the machineries of justice will not be free to do justice when needed.
“Barring lawyers from accessing the court under any guise must be condemned by every voice in Nigeria as I consider it as another attempt by the executive to suspend the fundamental human rights of the Nigerian people as guaranteed by chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, and the African Chatter on Human and Peoples Right. This is because no democratic government in the world is permitted to administer its citizens through the barrels of guns order than the provisions of the constitution.
Also, a legal practitioner based in Abuja, Anthony Ehilebo, said security operatives have no business preventing lawyers from gaining access into courtrooms, stressing that a fully roped lawyer should have unhindered access to any part of the courtroom.
Ehilebo urged judges to make proclamations that prevent security operatives from gaining access into courtrooms.
Ehilebo said: “The security operatives have no business in the court of law order than to bring people and allow the court to administer justice. I want to put it on record that we must ask for a higher standard of our judges, and since they have control of their courtrooms, they must proclaim that those of us that are caprice in the temple of justice are allowed unhindered access into this temple.
“They have no business restricting our movement into the temple of justice, irrespective of the matter they have. When a lawyer is roped, he has the right to access anywhere in the temple of justice because he is standing for the people he represents; he should have unfettered access into the courtroom, even on matters where the witnesses are shielded. Even in matters where confidentiality is involved, he is allowed to enter the most screened court sessions.”
When asked if there are provisions in the constitution that frowns against such action, Ehilebo said: “I don’t think there is a provision that prohibits such actions but what the lawyer is expected to do is seek refuge under those who have the power of proclamation which is the judge.
“The judges have to take responsibility for the temples they administer. If the lawyer can go before the judge in such an instance, saying “we have not been allowed access into the courtroom”, the judge would now make a proclamation restricting security agencies from carrying out such action and, of course, that would immediately be implemented.
“If the judge today were to say the president of Nigeria is no longer consistent, that becomes a law. Once a judge is speaking and goes into proclamation, that becomes law. And like I said earlier, we must hide under this proclamation while we pressure our legislators associated with the judiciary to make laws that would protect the sovereignty of our judicial process.”