Former Court of Appeal Justice, Peter Ige called upon lawyers on Monday to actively champion justice and defend human rights in instances where the constitution and rule of law face violations.
Ige stated this at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ibadan 2023 Law Week, with the theme: “Giving Back: The Lawyer, His Practice and His Social Responsibilities.”
Delivering a keynote address at the occasion, the retired justice said it was the duty of lawyers to challenge dangerous policies of the government or its agencies which could bring untold hardship to Nigerians, particularly the downtrodden.
He particularly cited the introduction of new naira notes in November 2022 by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), just a few months before the 2023 general election, describing it as thoughtless.
Ige said that CBN still went ahead to prohibit the old notes as legal tender, even when it knew very well that the new notes were not available in banks to enable members of the public to operate their accounts.
“Thank God, lawyers and civil society organisations came heavily against the policy.
“The rich also cried profusely to the extent that some governors approached the apex court to stem the tide of chaos and near anarchy that the policy engendered.
“Parents found it difficult to feed their children and many died in the process. Workers found it difficult to go to work,” he stated.
The retired justice also noted the issue of continuous strikes and the grave threats to the country’s security by the Boko Haram insurgents and bandits.
“The tremendous insecurity and killings by unknown gunmen still lingers on. Farmers can no longer go to their farms. Those involved in mechanised farming have abandoned their farms due to kidnappings, murders and threats from brigands.
“Where do we go from here? Who will bell the cat? There are a lot the lawyers can do to ameliorate the situation and take the nation out of the cul de sac and the economic doldrums we are in,” he said.
Ige called on the Body of SANS, NBA and its members collectively and individually to always intervene on behalf of the society.
“The holy bible has said in Proverbs 19:17: Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
“If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord,” he said.
Ige, however, commended the Ibadan branch of NBA for ‘excellently’ upholding the rule of law and ensuring compliance with the constitution and the law in promoting the economic well-being of people.
Oyo State Commissioner for Justice, Mr Abiodun Aikomo, urged lawyers to give back to the society by ensuring that justice was done at all levels.
“Let’s always bear in mind that we have the key to make the society better through our actions and works,” he said.
The state Chief Judge, Justice Iyabo Yerima, said that judges were being overworked because their number was few, adding, however, that very soon, eight more judges would be added to the bench to make the job easier.
Yerima urged the lawyers to always cooperate with the judges and always prepare well before coming to court.
“Always feel free to relate with us so that there won’t be any gap between the bar and bench,” the chief judge said.
One of the patrons of the bar, Chief Matthew Adepoju, remarked that the main purpose of the law was to regulate and promote the well-being of people.
“So, ensure that you work toward achieving the purpose because you can only give what you have,” he said.