The family of a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Okey Wali, has pleaded with lawyers and human rights activists in the country not to openly protest the abduction of their patriarch.
Mr. Wali, the immediate past president of the NBA, was kidnapped in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on the night of October 11.
Following his abductor’s delay in releasing him, some senior lawyers and activists in the country began to organise “to galvanise the human rights community and the Bar to press for his freedom”, people familiar with the matter told PREMIUM TIMES.
The group, led by the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, reportedly planned to issue ultimatum to government to rescue the NBA president from his abductors.
On the expiration of the ultimatum, our sources said, the group planned to mobilise Nigerian lawyers to boycott the courts until the senior lawyer is released.
However family members of the abducted lawyer are putting pressure on the arrowheads of the protest to shelve the plan, saying any open agitation for his release could endanger his life.
Sources close to the family told this newspaper that Mr. Wali’s nuclear and extended family members fear that the former NBA president’s abductors might get even angrier if put under pressure by any form of protest.
“The family is afraid that his abductors might begin to torture him (Mr. Wali) in anger if there’s any kind of protest against their action,” one of our sources said. “The family actually believe that it is better to keep the SAN’s ordeal away from public consciousness.”
Mr. Odinkalu could not be reached Tuesday and it is not clear whether his group is calling off the protest in deference to the family. His associates said he had travelled abroad.
However, the President of the NBA, Augustine Alegeh, confirmed that Mr. Wali’s family is averse to any form of protest over their patriarch’s abduction.
“The family is already working to release him. ,” Mr. Alegeh said. “I have been working with them. And I have issued a release that anybody who does a protest or strike over the matter might jeorpadise the effort we are making.
“We have made a lot of progress, and God willing, he would be released soon. I did not go for the IBA [International Bar Association] conference because I’m working with the family to get him released.”