The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, on Friday attacked the state’s branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), calling the association “the enemy of our people”.
Mr Wike said he was irked by the NBA’s ultimatums and threats to boycott courts in the state “because of one of their members who is being held by kidnappers in the state.”
“We wish to warn that by descending into the arena of politics with irresponsible ultimatums, threats and utterances, the NBA in Rivers State has crossed the redline and become part of the enemy of our people,” a statement from Government House, Port Harcourt, quoted Mr Wike to have said in Port Harcourt during the opening of the 2019/2020 legal year in the state.
The statement was issued by Mr Wike’s media aide, Simeon Nwakaudu.
Mr Wike described as “political”, the NBA’s position on security matters in the state.
He declared that the state government had withdrawn its support for the NBA, including the support for the hosting of the 2020 NBA national conference in Port Harcourt.
“The NBA kept quiet when they closed down our courts in 2013. It lost its voice and remained indifferent when the homes of judges were brazenly attacked in the dead of night by security agents.
“Again, it looked the other way and maintained a conspiratorial silence when political thus invaded the High Court premises in a failed politically-motivated bid to stop judges from sitting.
“In the midst of these failures and acts of gross irresponsibility, the chairman of the Port Harcourt branch of the NBA could have the temerity to issue ultimatums to the State Government and threatening to boycott courts on account of an unfortunate kidnap incident that affected a member of the association,” an angry governor said.
Mr Wike said only one lawyer was being held by kidnappers in the state and “security agencies were working on the case”.
He also said the state government was concerned about the kidnapped lawyer.
He said nobody could accuse his administration of neglecting security in the state and that the Rivers government has spent “much resources” to support security agencies to fight crime in the state.
The chairman of the NBA in the state, Sylvester Adaka, had on Wednesday demanded that kidnappers release all lawyers who were being held captive in the state.
Mr Adaka, according to a report by Punch newspaper, spoke with reporters after an emergency meeting of the executives of all NBA branches in the state.
“The NBA has observed with dismay the kidnapping of lawyers and their family members in Rivers state, particularly, the recent kidnap of Iyke Emelogu on August 4, 2019 at Unity Estate, Eneka, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State. Also recently, the kidnap of Sunday Wonmo and Monima Peters, all members of the NBA Rivers State and a couple of others that we have not listed here.
“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of all lawyers and their family members in the custody of the kidnappers.
“In the failure to accede to our demands and release our colleagues in detention within the nearest future, the members of the NBA in Rivers State will call our members to withdraw their professional services from all cases involving kidnapping, cultism, armed robbery and the likes in all the courts in the state,” Mr Adaka had reportedly said.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted him on Monday night, Mr Adaka expressed shock over Mr Wike’s outburst.
Mr Adaka, who was present at the event where Mr Wike spoke, said “at no time did the governor use the words ‘enemy of the people’, so I don’t know where Simeon Nwakaudu (the governor’s media aide) found those words”.
Mr Adaka said the NBA in Rivers State has never been confrontational with the governor “nor the government of Rivers State”.
“We appeal to the governor to reconsider his decision, particularly for the sake of ‘other branches’ in the state,” he said.