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(OPINION) Arrest of Lawyers in Port Harcourt: An Affront to the Legal Profession

By Achor Omodu
Before the commencement of the 2023 elections, Governor Wike came up with Executive Orders aimed at stopping the opposition political parties from meeting and campaigning for their candidates.

All manner of shenanigans were deployed to frustrate the APC and other opposition political parties in exercising their constitutional and statutory rights.

Governor Wike, knowing full well that he has failed to deliver to Rivers people dividends of democracy commensurate to receipts from FAAC, IGR and other revenue sources accruable to Rivers State, and being aware that his surrogate, Sim Fubara, will be rejected at the polls attempted to remove virtually all opposition candidates and political parties from the ballot. He succeeded at the trial courts but the Court of Appeal stood firmly on the path of justice.

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During the elections, voters who wanted to express their franchise in opposition to the draconian and dictatorial tendencies of Governor Wike were highly intimidated. A day or two days to the Governorship Election day proper, PDP’s town criers went round communities in Rivers State warning those who intend to vote against the PDP to stay at home or be ready to face the consequences. To ensure that their threats come to fruition, they went to polling units with bundles of cane which they used in flogging those who came to vote against the PDP. It was maddening, to say the least. They used other crude means to scare voters away from polling units.

In the end, results were manipulated from questionable mutilated result sheets. The PDP was declared winner. Deep in their consciences, they know that processes were undermined for them to be ahead. Like Othman Dan Fodio had said, “Conscience is an open wound, only the truth can heal it.”

The law allows candidates or their parties to challenge outcomes of elections through election petitions tribunals. Following the widespread voter intimidation and suppression by members of the PDP, shady and underhand acts of ad hoc and regular staff of the INEC, the APC is challenging the declaration made in favour of the PDP in Rivers State. Rather than act transparently, the INEC, acting in cahoots with the PDP, is denying the APC access to materials/documents used in the elections in Rivers State.

As part of Governor Wike’s chicanery and conspiracy to cover up their manifest wrongdoing during the elections, they have surreptitiously decided to frustrate the APC from filing their cases at the tribunals by arresting lawyers for no offence other than that they accepted to represent the candidates of the APC and APC at the tribunals.

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Under the Cab Rank Rule and as supported by Rule 24(1) of RPC, 2007, it is the duty of a lawyer to accept any brief in the court in which he professes to practice provided the proper professional fee is offered unless there are special circumstances Mwhich justify his refusal.

Arresting lawyers who have accepted to provide legal services to candidates of the APC and the APC in Rivers State is not only an attack on legal practitioners and the legal profession in Nigeria but an affront to rule of law and justice delivery.

…Achor Omodu is a legal practitioner based in Port Harcourt.