One of the brains behind the formation of New Nigeria Bar Association (NNBA) in protest against Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Nuhu Ibrahim has said that the split was based on the fact that the mother association has lost its goals over the years.
Ibrahim, a practicing lawyer based in Kaduna added that the decision to form the new NBA was contrary to speculation making the rounds that it was taken because Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State was dis-invited to this year’s NBA annual general conference.
In this interview with NOAH EBIJE in Kaduna, the pioneer leader of NNBA noted that, “the NBA as it is has derailed from the lofty goals that led to its formation in the first place”. He however, said that if the NBA returns to its glory and ensures justice, equity to all members, the NNBA could rescind its decision of forming the splinter group.
How do you assess the performance of the judiciary in both pre and post election matters concerning the 2019 general elections?
The Judiciary needs to be commended as regards the 2019 pre/post election matters. It has lived up to its name as an independent arm of the government despite certain challenges.
Before now, lawyers in the country appear united for the progress of the country, but recent happenings appear to have divided the learned, especially the dis-invitation of Governor Nasir El-rufai to NBA annual general conference. Is it supposed to be so?
Unity of every group of persons or professionals is hinged on justice and the rule of law, once these principles are absent, there will certainly come some form of agitations. Not only the dis-invitation of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai but a lot of other injustices has culminated to what today some view as a division in the legal profession, to me, it is not division. The problem is how the old NBA, which parades a motto: promotion of rule of law, has been derailing from its mandate. People should not confuse the NBA being an association and the legal profession. The two are distinctive.
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You are one of the leading brains behind the new group that has planned to break away from NBA to form NNBA. Don’t you think it is a hasty decision?
I don’t think it is a hasty decision. So many lawyers from all parts of the country are very disenchanted as well; it is just a question of who speaks up.
Your news media may sample opinion of lawyers across the country; you will come to understand why we say the NBA as it is has derailed from the lofty goals that led to its formation in the first place.
Some Nigerians are already saying that your action is a silent endorsement of restructuring of the country since NNBA is a northern region affair. What is your reaction to this?
The NNBA is not a northern affair, the last time I checked, the full meaning of NNBA is “New Nigeria Bar Association” not “Northern Bar Association”. I don’t know whether there is any wider definition of “northern Nigeria” that includes, Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, or Owerri because we have lawyers of like minds cutting across all sections of the country.
Some people said that Governor El-Rufai was not the first personality to have been dis-invited by NBA to its conference, recalling that when Maurice Iwu was heading the INEC he suffered similar dis-invitation by NBA and heaven did not fall. Why now that it happened to El-Rufai?
The NNBA is an association of lawyers of like minds and not politicians; it has nothing to do with the person of El-Rufai but the rule of law. Rule of law knows no personality, tribe or religion.
Some senior lawyers have asked aggrieved Northern members of the NBA to stop their bid to pull out of the association. Will you succumb to their plea?
For now, we have made up our minds, the agitation is age-long. But we are making all necessary consultations with all those we think matter in the struggle to restore the legal profession back to its days of glory.
With what is happening in NBA, some Nigerians believe is a reflection that the country has been divided along ethno-religious lines. Do you believe so?
It is baseless to think so, what has been happening in the NBA did not start today. So, I think for anyone to suggest that the country is divided along ethno-religious lines because of what happens in the old NBA is to say the least untrue and misleading.
There is this general belief among some citizens that judiciary is partly responsible for unending crimes in the country for allegedly setting free those who are supposed to go to jail. What do you have to say to this?
All parts of the society including the judiciary share in the blames. The problem has to do with systemic collapse. The citizens, the police, the ministries of justice, and all the three arms of government must accept responsibility and rise up to the occasion otherwise I’m afraid that things will continue to degenerate.
Many stakeholders in the judicial system are looking forward to seeing you and your splinter group rescind your decision to pull out of NBA in the interest of the country. Will you ever rescind this decision?
If today the NBA returns to its glory and ensures justice, equity and fairness to all members and protection of the rule of law, why not? The whole country has for long been beckoning on the NBA for direction albeit fruitlessly.
How do you react to the allegation that some people somewhere who felt aggrieved in the dis-invitation of El-Rufai by NBA are sponsoring you to split the association?
No one is sponsoring us, the NNBA has nothing to do with the person of El-Rufai because his name features only when citing example of one of the recent breaches of the cardinal principle of fair hearing by the NBA, otherwise the NNBA has the aim of bringing the legal profession back to glory for the benefits of its entire membership and the country and the freedom of association of lawyers to form and belong to any association of their choice for the protection of their interest. So the allegation is a mere blackmail that won’t deter our collective resolve.
While you were mulling this break up, one had expected that your group would have petitioned NBA over other invitees to the conference, instead you opted for a pull out. Don’t you think this is too confrontational?
Just like I earlier noted, the NNBA has a wider agenda of ensuring the rule of law not only on paper but also in all practical particulars. It is not about any invitee to the conference, please.
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Are you already at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) for the registration of NNBA, if yes, why the haste, if no, why the delay?
I can only tell you that all necessary steps are being considered as consultations are being stepped up to overcome all hurdles to do the needful.
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