By BEN AGANDE
ABUJA — President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, gave a firm commitment that he would take decisive action to curb political excesses ahead of the 2015 general elections.
He gave the commitment when a delegation of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, led by its president, Mr. Okey Wali, visited him and raised concern on a number of challenges facing the country.
According to President Jonathan, the rising political tension in the country is uncalled for and disturbing, and urged those in elected position to concentrate on governance.
President Jonathan said: “The political tension in the country is mainly built around the 2015 elections which should not be the case. It is quite disturbing. The year 2015 is still far off. I expect politicians to focus on the business of governance.
“We must do what we were elected to do first. We will do our best to curb overheating of the polity”.
On the crisis in Rivers State, the President said he had asked for a detailed brief on the security situation in the state and assured that necessary action would be taken to ensure adherence to the rule of law in the state and maintenance of law and order.
Addressing other issues raised by the delegation, President Jonathan said his administration was implementing the right policies, programmes and projects to accelerate economic development and boost employment in the country.
Nigerians should exercise little more patience
He called for a little more patience from Nigerians, saying results of the present administration’s efforts in areas such as power supply, would become even more apparent in due course.
President Jonathan also assured the NBA that his administration would do all it could towards the positive reformation and strengthening of Nigeria’s judicial system, including the resolution of issues relating to increased funding for the judiciary.
He reaffirmed his commitment to the progressive reformation of Nigeria’s electoral processes to guarantee that all votes cast in elections truly counted and that elections in the country were accepted by all objective stakeholders as free, fair and credible.
President Jonathan urged the NBA and other professional associations in the country to find ways of interacting with government on a regular basis, noting that the associations were established not to antagonize government, but contribute to national growth and development.
He accepted the NBA’s invitation to open the association’s Annual General Conference at Tinapa, Cross River State, next month, promising to personally honour the invitation if his official schedule permitted him.
NBA decries chaos in Rivers State
Speaking with newsmen after meeting with President Jonathan, National President of the NBA, Mr Okey Wali, said the association was in the Villa to convey its views on the state of the economy, security, rule of law, independence of the judiciary, anti-corruption crusade, elections and electoral process as well as the ongoing review of the 1999 constitution.
He said the association pointedly talked about Rivers State and expressed concerns that it was disturbed about what was coming out of the state.
He said: “We appealed to the President to do all that he can lawfully to ensure that peace returns to Port Harcourt and; law and order prevail. And at all times the principles of the rule of law must be adhered to. We made that clear to the President.
“As you know, NBA is a major stakeholder in the affairs of this country. We discussed some issues that were bothering us, such as security, economy of the country, the rule of law, the judiciary.
“So we thought we should have audience with Mr President and express our concerns on some issues. The president graciously took the issues and addressed them”.
“We have talked about the issue of the independence and funding for the judiciary, we talked about rule of law, because we believe that that is a strong issue in any civilized society, and we talked about the economy, we appreciate the fact that the government is working, we have a lot of reports, but our concern also is the impact on the average Nigerian.
“It is one thing to have statistics, but we like it to be moved to the next level where Nigerians get the impacts of what the government is claiming.
Speaking on the delay in the dispensation of justice in the country, the NBA leader said the problem was not one that could be solved with only one party.
“It is a justice sector problem and that was one of the issues we raised with the president. What happens in the court is a cocktail of issues. It starts from prosecution and ends on what happens in courts.
“If investigation is not properly done, you don’t get good prosecution before the judge comes to the judgment because what the judge decides on at the end of the day depends on the quality of evidence that is before the judge, so it is a total justice sector problem. that was one of the issues we raised,” he said.
Wali said the NBA has taken steps to sanitise its ranks to ensure that those who are not fit to be in the bar are weeded out.
”There is no doubt the fact the perception is there about culpability of members of the Bar, but if you also have been following the news stories of late, in the last two months, about six lawyers have been disbarred. One of the things we did on coming to the office is that we didn’t like this perception and we said we are going to deal with it.
We established nine disciplinary panels in all parts of the country, one in each of the six geo-political zones, two in Lagos and one in Abuja. we inaugurated the legal practitioners disciplinary committee, the results are coming and it takes a while for these things to manifest, but I can say that this is coming so soon, sooner than we even expected.
“In a long time you have never of a lawyer being disbarred for misconduct but in the last two months, six have been disbarred while two have been suspended and many more I’m sorry to say are coming” he said.