Lawyers in Anambra State, under the aegis of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), on Monday, staged a peaceful protest at the Government House, Awka, to press home their quest for financial autonomy and independence of the judiciary.
The lawyers carried placards some of which read: “Gov Obiano please implement the constitutional provisions on financial autonomy and independence of the Judiciary”, “Anambra state branches of NBA demand financial autonomy and independence of the Judiciary.”
The lawyers initially stood by the entrance to the Government House, but when no one attended to them after about 30 minutes, they blocked the gate.
The Secretary to the State Government, Solo Chukwulobelu, later came out to listen to them.
Speaking on behalf of the eight NBA branches in the state, the chairman, Committee of all Chairmen, Kingsley Awuka, said they were at the Government House to submit another copy of the letter previously sent to the governor.
The governor, he said, did not respond to their previous letter.
Mr Awuka said they decided to come with few selected members across the branches in consent of the bar leaders, following ugly experience in the last protest where they lost a member, adding that the protest was not about the legal body nor lawyers, but the common man.
“We’re here today because of the silence the governor gave to our press release where we appealed to him considering the peculiar situation of the state and that his APGA-led government is a product of judicial independence and bravery.
“We feel saddened that the government of this party which is supposed to do everything to ensure that the judicial arm of government is strengthened beyond what’s obtainable in other states is doing nothing in that regard.
“If the judiciary yielded to executive subjection during that time, the mandate given to APGA would have been stolen till date.
“Go round our court rooms, they’re in a mess, judges sit without their robes, lawyers sit without properly being dressed because of the unconducive environment. Magistrates take turns to officiate for lack of infrastructure.
“Election is around the corner and other matters that would require judicial interventions will soon come up. We wonder where people will go when the time comes,” Mr Awuka said.
He further said that for the past one month courts in the state have been under lock, and the insecurity in the state has heightened.
“If suspects are arrested, where will they be taken and tried? The judicial arm of government is dead,” he said.
He emphasised that the protest was not meant to embarrass the government but to appeal to its consciences.
According to him, “It is not about the NBA or lawyers. It’s about the common man, everybody, including the governor himself.
“He has the capacity and doesn’t need to wait for the Nigeria Governors Forum to take action because when we were electing him, we didn’t look at others, but elected him on his own merit.”
Responding, Secretary to the State Government, Mr Chukwulobelu commended the lawyers for their peaceful conduct. He assured them that their message would be passed on to the governor.
He said, “We’re working out an arrangement with the judiciary on the financial autonomy based on available resources. But judicial independence is a national issue and not state-driven.”
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