Law & Human Rights

October 16, 2014

Release Okey Wali unconditionally now — SANs

Release Okey Wali unconditionally now — SANs

Okey Wali

By Dayo Benson, Jimitota Onoyume & Bartholomew  Madukwe

SENIOR Advocates of Nigeria and other lawyers have unanimously condemned the abduction of the immediate past president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Mr Okey Wali SAN.

Former NBA President, Chief O.C.J. Okocha, SAN, who described Wali as a complete gentleman, said it was sad that anybody could contemplate his abduction.

He stated: “The abduction is condemnable. This is very shocking. He is not a money bag and he is not a politician. I appeal for his unconditional release.

Best of relationship

I am very shocked. Okey Wali is not just a former president of NBA to me, he is my kinsman. We come from the same ethnic nationality, we are both Ikwere men and from the same LGA in Rivers State. We attended the same secondary school, even if I was his senior. We have the best of relationship. He is not a controversial person.

“So I appeal to all those behind this, who are aware of any useful information, to please help us. They should release this young man and let him return safely to his family. It is an appeal I am making. Wali is not a trouble maker and he is a respected lawyer. We all are praying for his immediate release.”

Okey Wali

Okey Wali

Constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay SAN, on his part, noted that those in government are the root cause of kidnapping in the country, noting that if they do not change their ways it will encourage criminal elements to engage in kidnapping and other crimes.

In his words: “Kidnapping is a terrible disease that Nigeria is experiencing from criminal characters who want to make money without working for it. So, it is to be condemned in every way possible. It just happened that Wali is a prominent person. But I think we need to reflect on the contribution of the Nigeria elites to the present situation of crime and corruption in the country. If the tiny elites is consuming all the resources in the country, considering the level of corruption- the $20b missing, the subsidy fraud which is committed mainly by PDP people, the pension fund fraud, even the new South Africa scandal, it shows that we have a tiny elite who are fraudulently and criminally consuming all our resources which should have been used to develop the country, provide employment and the welfare of Nigerians.

“To buttress this point, if you look at the latest Mo Ibrahim report on African leadership, Nigeria is 47 out of 53. In terms of welfare of Nigerians in the country, we are 47 in Africa. Yet we are supposed to be the richest country in Africa and we have such a horrible record of human welfare. So I am saying that those in government, especially in PDP, are the root cause of this problem. If they won’t change their way, their ravenous hunger to grab our resources and misuse power, then it will encourage criminal elements to now take to the type we are talking about. We in the political party as the elites we must change, if this country is to be cleansed from criminal actions.”

Criminal actions

Another senior advocate, Tani Molajo, opined that the development is a symptom of clear lawlessness to which an alarming large segment of the society has descended. He explained: “It was only a few weeks ago when there was an assault on the judiciary in Ekiti State. Now, it is a lawyer. It is not his rank that matters. An attack on a lawyer anywhere is an attack on lawyers everywhere. You recall that this is not the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria to be kidnapped. Last year Mike Ozekhome SAN was kidnapped.

“This is sad and I only pray that he will soon be with his loved ones. I would expect that lawyers will immediately deliberate on how to secure his release. I do hope that it will not be left to his family alone. We must call upon the police to put a stop to this extent of lawlessness to which has gripped the country for too long, particularly as we approach the 2015 elections. I grieve when I hear things of this nature, in respect of anyone.”

Chief Emeka Ngige SAN, who contested against Wali in 2012 NBA election, spoke in a similar vein. He called on the security agencies to brace up on their responsibilities in ensuring that protection of lives and properties is maintained at the highest level nationwide.

He added: “The news of the kidnap of the immediate past President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Okey Wali, SAN by some gun men at his Port Harcourt residence Saturday night is to say the least, the most shocking and disheartening news I have received in recent times.

Okey is a peace loving and easy going gentleman who abhors violence in any shape or form. Okey has not done anything that would warrant his being kidnapped by gunmen.

Okey, while serving as the 26th President of NBA, stood and fought for human liberty and cessation of all form of violence in our national life. Indeed the NBA under his leadership organized the first ever security summit where issues bordering on the state of insecurity in Nigeria were thoroughly considered.


Recurring issue

The report of that summit along with its recommendations was forwarded to the Presidency for its consideration. Sadly, nothing was ever heard from the Government in that regard.

“The kidnap of Mr. Wali brings once more to the fore, the recurring issue of the state of insecurity in Nigeria and in Rivers State in particular. The Police in that State are now more interested in engaging in partisan political activities instead of protecting lives and property.

This is another kidnap too many! Yesterday it was Ilochi Okafor, SAN, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, Doyin Rhodes-Vivour and others. Today it is the turn of Okey Wali. Who know whose turn it will be tomorrow?

“It is on this note that I join all other well wishers in calling on the abductors to release Wali from their custody forthwith and unconditionally. It is an irony that a person who has stood on the side of the downtrodden and oppressed in the country will be treated this way. But this is Nigeria, where life is now ‘nasty, short and brutish,’ a country that is now strictly speaking, a failed state!”

Meanwhile, Professor Fidelis Oditah QC, SAN, wondered why a person like Wali was kidnapped since he is not a politician. He described it as an absolute disgrace that shows the extent to which insecurity is in the land.

“Is he a politician, why did they kidnap him? It is an absolute disgrace and it shows the extent to which insecurity is in the land, if the other day hoodlums went and beat up a high court judge and last weekend the immediate past president of NBA was kidnapped. Where is the government? What government is to do for the people as a primary responsibility is to secure lives and property. We know there is insecurity in the North-East, we saw the lawlessness in the South-West and now we are seeing example of lawlessness and insecurity in the South-South. It is a total disgrace, they must release him immediately” Prof Oditah said.

A human rights lawyer, Chief Morah Ekwunoh, while urging the federal government to put all its mights and powers into ensuring the quickest and unconditional release without harm on Wali, said if that is done it will show and demonstrate that Nigeria is not a failed state.

“It is with utmost shock, to bone-marrow, that l received the most unfortunate and unbelievable  news of the kidnap of our immediate past President, Mr Okey Wali, SAN. This is particularly shocking; in consideration of the learned SAN’s complete harmlessness and lack of capability or capacity to hurt even a fly, not to talk of humans.

“This, for the umpteenth time and more than before, brings to focus the hydra-headed nightmare  of insecurity sweeping across the nation, with the speed of light or  harmattan  fire, and quickly running from the North East, through the Chibok girls, Benue and  Ekiti State, where courts are shut for weeks running, on account of abominable physical attacks on learned High Court Judges, and ,now, our Okey Wali SAN, all rising in crescendo as we approach 2015 elections. If these are forebodings of our election time expectations, for sure, there is much to fear and worry about, as the country is certainly sitting on kegs of gunpowder” Ekwunoh stated.

Another lawyer, Martins Iwegbu, expressed fear over the upcoming 2015 elections following the kidnap of Wali. “Is this a preview to what will happen in 2015?” he asked. He pointed out that for Wali to be kidnapped, it speaks volume of spurious security situation in the country.

NBA Publicity secretary, Mr Angus Chukwuka, who also appealed for his unconditional release urged security operatives in the state to swing into action to unmask those behind it, saying “the abduction is unfortunate. We are calling on the state government and security bodies in the state to swing into action to ensure his release. It is important he is released without any harm.”

Also appealing to the kidnappers to release the hostage unhurt, the Publicity secretary of Civil Liberties Organization, Mr Livingston Wechie enjoined security bodies in the state to step up effort to secure his release.

“We send our strong appeal to his abductors to kindly release him unhurt and unconditionally. We hold this position giving the great contributions of the NBA under his watch in the promotion and defence of human and peoples rights in Nigeria in which capacity he just handed over to a new leadership of the Bar just last month. It is a great concern to us now the recent rising spate of kidnapping in Rivers state which appears as a phase of security crisis in the state one too many particularly as 2015 elections draw close.

“We therefore charge the security forces in the state particularly the Nigerian Police and the Department of State Security to not only launch a high powered rescue mission of Wali, but to also redouble their effort in checking kidnap plots and also take citizenship and community security more seriously than before as so much is expected of them. This effort will help douse the tension and the rising fears among residents of the state who do genuine business” CLO said.