Human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), Sunday faulted the Nigeria Bar Association?s (NBA?s) leadership call for the proscription of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), describing the call as an act of impunity.
In a statement, the legal luminary said the NBA?s call for proscription of NGF was a sad reminder of the fate that befell some progressive professional bodies and trade unions, which were either corruptly taken over or decimated by the Ibrahim Babangida regime.
According to Falana, NBA?s call is in itself indicting as the election that brought the association?s incumbent president, Mr Okey Wali (SAN) was also alleged to have been rigged.
Following the controversy that trailed the outcome of the re-election of Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi as chairman of the NGF, the NBA president, Wali, had called for the proscription NGF during the National Executive Committee (NEC) bi-monthly meeting with started last Friday and ended Sunday at Yenogoa, Bayelsa State.
But harping on the contention raised by Wali?s major opponent, Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN) at the NBA election, Falana said: ?In spite of the fact that the allegations of malpractice (including the fact that some lawyers who died several years ago voted from the grave!) were proved beyond reasonable doubt, no one ever suggested that the NBA be proscribed.?
Falana recalled how, in February 1984, the candidate backed by the military junta had failed woefully to win election as the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at its delegates? conference held in Benin, Edo State, and it then reacted by promulgating a decree which sacked the NLC leadership and appointed a sole administrator to run its affairs.
?This incident and another involving the NBA then have confirmed that some Nigerian lawyers went all out to defend the autonomy of the NBA and resisted the official imposition of leaders on it, even under a fascistic military dictatorship.
?It is therefore ironical that the current leadership of the NBA has, for some inexplicable reasons, colluded with the forces of retrogression to constrict the democratic space in Nigeria,? he said.
?It is particularly sad to note that the NBA which used to be the defender of the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people has thrown up leaders who are campaigning for the proscription of friendly societies and clubs. Even if Mr Wali does not like the NGF he is duty bound, as a lawyer, to respect the right of the members to associate without external interference.?