ENDSARS Protest: No To NBA’s Free Legal Service To Vandals, Looters
BY YUSUF SHEHU USMAN. Let me state from the outset that I am a bona fide member of the NBA and have been so, for more than forty (40) years. Therefore I have every right and locus to write this piece.
I was shocked to the marrows when I read reports from the press that the NBA of all associations, has offered to provide free legal services to all those arrested in connection with the on going unlawful breaking into public and private warehouses to loot Covid19 palliatives, destroy public utilities including the oldest court building and other courts. The same vandals also broke many jails and Illegally set free prisoners lawfully put into custody by order of the various courts within the jurisdiction they were detained and in a recent trend, they have started breaking into private business and residential properties to destroy and loot properties of innocent Nigerian citizens
This is apart from the many police men and private citizens they killed in the course of their criminal activities
Before we go any further, let’s put the issues in their proper perspectives
The root cause of everything in this saga was the End SARS protest. The Protesters have every right under our constitution and other relevant Statutes to lawfully protest against police brutality and indeed any other issue affecting governance and service delivery by the government.
The end SARS protest therefore has constitutional backing and it’s legal, lawful and legitimate. I have no problem with the Protesters in this regard and it is immaterial whether I share in or believe in their cause. It is their right, entrenched, guaranteed and protected by the Constitution
It is generally agreed that the concept, design execution of the protest was peaceful
However, it can also not be denied that in the cause of the protest, some persons who have nothing to do with the objective of Protesters and many who do not even know the reason for the protest, not only infiltrated but really joined the Protesters either in sympathy or for their different and conflicting purposes. The new entrants to the protest are now generally and variously referred to as hooligans, vandals and criminal elements
In my view, it was easy or possible for the hooligans to infiltrate the ranks of the genuine Protesters because the protest was taken to the home of the vandals- the streets where they live and carry on their daily criminal enterprises
If the Protesters or any other person was surprised that the hooligans high jacked the protest and turned into the brigandage that it is now, I am not.
The explanation is as simple as ABC
The hooligans live on the street, they conduct their daily businesses there and they believe they own that space. They are always looking for opportunity to steal and even kill
Then the Protesters brought their protest home to the vandals
They ought to know from experience and the established antecedents of the hooligans that they will join and taking over the Protest in these circumstances, is a foregone conclusion
This is the hard fact the end SARS Protesters won’t want to hear but it is a fact we all know because we have gone through it on many occasions in the past eg Labour protests
This is the background or clear scenario against which the on going brigandage has been predicated and it is also what led to the arrest of some Protesters and vandals, who are now set to face prosecution by the State.
The NBA has set up machineries in the states to offer probo no (free) legal services to all those arrested and detained for the protest.
This is the right thing for the foremost Association to do in the circumstances
The objective of the NBA is to observe, promote, uphold and enforce the rule of law and aid the attainment of Justice
The right to protest is a constitutional right which the NBA is obligated even by it’s constitution,to protect
I am therefore in full agreement with the decision of the NBA to offer probo no defence for those arrested and prosecuted for doing nothing except the exercise of their legal rights.
The problem however, is as stated earlier, there were hood looms who infiltrated the genuine Protesters and completely high jacked the protest to further their criminal acts of murder, arson and looting of public and private properties
Those arrested by the police were not all genuine Protesters. The number arrested included the hood looms who in fact were in the majority
It must be appreciated that just as it was not possible at the point of arrest to distinguish the vandals from the genuine Protesters, it is also not easy for the purpose of granting the pro bono defence, for the NBA to know whether some of the Protesters were also involved in the criminality that trailed the protest
In such circumstances, it is not unreasonable to opine that the NBA may unwittingly secure the release on bail and even defend in the course of trial, vandals who razed down court buildings,who killed innocent police men and private citizens and who looted public and private properties without justification.
As lawyers, we know that the arrested persons will be charged jointly and severally, not individually for the offences they would be tried by the court
At what stage will the NBA know the genuine Protesters from the vandals and hooligans?
I presume the NBA will equally defend them jointly and severally, which means they are going to defend not only the genuine Protesters, but also the hooligans
In my view, this would amount to a misplacement if not even an abuse of the noble objective of pro bono services.
Therefore, it is my respectful submission that the NBA as an Association, had no business applying the common resources of it’s members to offer free legal services to vandals who may even have looted from some members of the NBA it’s self
Nobody is denying the accused persons their constitutional rights to legal representation in their defence but in the same vein, I know of no law that says they must be defended by the NBA as an association. This is not the kind of cases the NBA should apply our contributions as members to prosecute and I don’t approve of it as a bona fide member of the NBA
I have no problem with any member of the Association defending any person pro bono in the course of his professional practice. That is an individual decision for practitioners to make
I therefore think that the NBA should reconsider it’s decision or seek the consent and approval of the members through a popular Congress before coming to the public with such controversial and from all indications, unpopular decision