The president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), has called on the Federal Government and all relevant authorities to put in place practical, proactive, and pragmatic steps to stop extrajudicial killings and kidnappings of not only legal practitioners but all categories of persons in the country.

Maikyau made the call on Tuesday during the commemoration to mark this year’s International Day of the Endangered Lawyer.

The day has been commemorated on January 24 every year since 2009, to draw attention to the situations of lawyers in selected countries, and raise awareness about the threats they face in the practice of the legal profession.

For this year’s observance of the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer, the focus of the world legal community is on Afghanistan, where lawyers dedicated to championing human rights in the country are being persecuted and prevented from freely and safely practising their profession.

The NBA president said it is not a crime to be a member of the legal profession – either on the Bench or at the Bar.

According to him, every citizen deserves to be accorded the right to life as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution, lawyers inclusive. It is important to note that one factor common to almost all the countries which have been chosen as the focus of the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer in successive years, is their poor score on global human rights and rule of law index.

He said, “The NBA fraternally identifies with our counterparts in Afghanistan in the face of the challenges confronting them. We are concerned that lawyers in Afghanistan can no longer freely and safely practise law as they have become perennial victims of extrajudicial killings.

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“We strongly and unequivocally condemn the repressive tendencies of the Taliban government to criminalise the practice of law and deplore the systemic extermination of Afghan lawyers by allegedly ‘unknown individuals.’

“The right to a fair and public hearing as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Afghanistan subscribes having ratified the same, is intertwined with the right to be represented by counsel of one’s choice. The current war being waged against legal practitioners is therefore not only criminal, but also a violation of the rights of the Afghan people to fair trials.

 “The Nigerian Bar Association is also using the opportunity of this year’s International Day of the Endangered Lawyer to draw the attention of our home government to the sad reality that lawyers in this country are fast becoming an endangered specie. It will be recalled that on 23 December 23,  2001, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, was murdered in his house at Bodija, Ibadan, Oyo State.

“A little over two decades later, on November 21, 2022, a member of the NBA, Ahoada Branch, Mr Nathan Akatakpo, was killed by unidentified assailants in Rivers State.

“We have continued to suffer recurring losses of lawyers, magistrates, and judges through extrajudicial killings, in addition to kidnappings, harassments, and molestations we face while performing our duties. We painfully recall the assassination of Barnabas and Abigail Igwe in Onitsha in 2002. Ijeoma Micah, who was found mutilated in her law office in Upmarket Maitama in October 2013; Eguno Dafiaghor and Samuel Ekuwangi in Delta State.

“In March 2014; Austin Icheghe in April 2015; Sampson Worlu, who was murdered one week after his call to the Bar in 2015; Mary Obe in Alode in 2017; Adeola Adebayo in Ikole-Ekiti in 2018; Emeka Agundu in Enugu in 2018; Frank Okwuachi in Otuocha near Onitsha in 2021; Kenechukwu Okeke in Nkpor, Anambra State in November 2021; Ndionyenma Nwankwo in 2021, Stephen Eke in Karu on 18 November 2022.”

By Vision

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