Senior Lawyers of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), on Wednesday, called on legal practitioners to associate themselves with Public Interest Litigation, in a bid to assist in tackling insecurity.
The lawyers made the call during a Technical Session of the 59th NBA Annual General Conference (AGC), held at the Eko Hotel and suites in Lagos.
The session was titled: “Kidnapping and Terrorism: Threat to Freedom, Security and National Development”
In a speech on the topical discuss, Mr Wahab Shittu, a Lagos-based lawyer and Senior Lecturer in the University of Lagos, noted that the twin evil of terrorism and kidnapping pose grave dangers to the survival of the “Nigerian State”
Shittu, who is also a senior prosecutor for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said that the survival of the political, social, economic, and diplomatic sovereignty of any nation, depends largely on its National security.
He defined National security as “The aggregation of the security interest of individuals, communities, ethnic groups , political elites and institutions, which inhabits the territory of a nation,”.
Shittu noted that sadly, however, in terms of statistics, Nigeria has had a low international ranking on security, which he said “paints” a bad image of the country.
“The 2010 United States Department of State Country Report on Terrorism places Nigeria as the third terrorist country of the world,” he said
He said that by statistics, an average of 1,500 people are kidnapped yearly in the country, adding that these social vices are also great disincentives to Foreign Direct Investment.
According to him, legal practitioners have key roles to play, in “stemming the tide” of insecurity in the country, by first ensuring that the fundamental rights of citizens are identified and respected.
“Lawyers must be interested in Public Interest Litigation in a bid to help protect the rights and liberties of citizens.
“The famous Gani Fawehimi of blessed memory, was reputed for his activism in such works, and he ensured he fought for the course of justice and fundamental rights,” he said
Shittu urged lawyers to take up such legal suits, and ensure an enforcement of the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, in criminal jurisprudence.
He also underscored the need for lawyers to insist on financial autonomy for the judiciary, and work constantly to ensure that those who run foul of ethical standards in their duties, are brought to justice.
“We must stand firm against arbitrary arrest and detention, and familisarise ourselves with international best practices like the resolution 1373 of the Security Council.
“We must be at the forefront in the advocacy against underdevelopment and ensure that government delivers on democracy dividends,” he said
He, therefore, called for enforcement of an Anti-terrorism and Anti-Kidnapping legislation, adding that meaningful development can only thrive in a country devoid of insecurity.
In the same vein, a panelist, Major Diepreye Biambo, Acting Deputy Director, Army Headquarters Legal Sservices, also highlighted some episodes of violence and terrorism in the country.
According to him, a number of factors are responsible for incidences of kidnapping and terrorism, which includes:
“Systematic and Political corruption, Religious crisis, pervasive materials, organised violent groups, weaker security system, porous Nigerian borders, drug abuse, unemployment Poverty and inequality,”
According to Biambo, some individuals are forced into taking up arms, in situations where the rich keep amassing wealth to themselves, while the citizens wallow in poverty.
He added that the acts of such individual is simply a reaction and response to their poverty and perceived inequality.
On the way forward, Biambo called for a domestication and protection of the rule of law, preservation of the nation’s democracy, as well as a diversification of the economy to create employment for citizens.
On his part, another panelist, Mr Musibau Adetunbi, who recounted his ordeal in the hands of kidnappers in April, noted that some individuals who engage in such vices, are compelled by circumstances.
According to him, “From my experience in April, you find that these individuals are compelled by circumstances to go into such crimes,”
Adetunbi called for the training and enlightenment of citizens on the dangers of such vices, as well as an improved welfare for the masses.
The session was moderated by the Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, who was represented by his Attorney-General, Mr Uche Ihediwa
The theme of the 59th NBA-AGC is “Facing the Future”
It had in attendance over 10,000 delegates from across the country.