January 31, 2023

Presidential Poll: We’ll not allow any convict to contest, NBA vows

…..says it’ll go to court once it gets evidence against any candidate

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA– The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, on Tuesday, said it will deploy the instrumentality of the law to ensure that no ex-convict is allowed to contest the forthcoming presidential election.

NBA, which is the umbrella body of legal practitioners in the country, noted that though some of the leading candidates in the impending presidential election have been accused of complicity in drug trafficking and corruption, it said such allegations have not been supported with any evidence of conviction.

Speaking at the state of the nation press conference it held in Abuja, the legal  body, through its President, Mr. Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, said: “As far as we are concerned, they remain allegations that have not been proven against the threshold set by the law.

“The alleged involvement in drugs and corruption are mere allegations that have not been proved.

“If anyone has evidence of conviction of any of the presidential candidates, please make it available and we will take it up from there.

“It is a constitutional requirement that if there is conviction the person stands disqualified. Even the Electoral Act also has provisions that makes anyone with history of conviction ineligible to stand for election.

“So, we will be glad to see any evidence and we will employ the instrumentality of the law to make sure that no convict stands for election in this country”, the NBA President stated.

Besides, NBA said it will institute disciplinary action against any judge or lawyer that involves in the manipulation of the judicial process to favour any politician.

“I urge Nigerians to repose confidence in the legal profession, hold us to account, report cases of misconduct and we are committed to ensuring that the bad eggs amongst us are singled out, brought to book, and dealt with decisively.

“As members of the Legal Profession, serving either on the Bench or at the Bar, we owe Nigerians sincere and honest participation in the process.

“We must do all that is legitimately within our abilities, motivated by the desire to serve the course of justice, to ensure that the relevant laws and rules, properly interpreted and applied, remain the guiding principles for our involvement in the process.

“While we shall stand with the Courts and do everything legal to protect the integrity of the Bench against any form of intimidation by the political class, any person or group of persons, we will not hesitate to call out and pursue disciplinary action(s) against erring judicial officials.

“Similarly, members of the Bar who misconduct themselves while participating in the resolution of electoral disputes will face disciplinary action at the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) and the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC), where Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) are involved”, the NBA added.

While commending the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for extending the period for collection of Permanent Voters Card, PVC, the NBA dissociated itself from its branch in Akwa Ibom state which it said endorsed a candidate in the impending election.

“I want to say in no unclear terms that we condemn the action of the few members who embarked on such despicable and disgraceful conduct using the platform of the NBA. That declaration was not made for or with the authority of the NBA.

“It is disgusting and I have already instructed the First Vice President NBA who is leading the NBA Election Monitoring Group, to immediately exclude all the branches of the NBA in Akwa Ibom State from participating in the monitoring of the forthcoming election.

“This exclusion will be communicated to INEC forthwith and members involved in this conduct will also face disciplinary action as may be determined by the NBA.

“NBA is not partisan; we are not a political party, we are representatives of the people, we remain neutral and must be seen to maintain our neutrality at all times – we belong to everyone and to nobody”.