The Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Monday staged a peaceful protest to the office of Governor of Lagos, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, over non-implementation of financial autonomy for the state judiciary.
The protest followed a directive issued on April 18 by the President of the NBA, Mr. Olumide Akpata, to all branches of the association.
Akpata had directed that the protest should be held in support of full implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary.
In the directive, Akpata ordered chairmen of all branches of the NBA to effectively mobilise members for the protest, with effect from Monday April 19, 2021.
He said that the protest should be held every Monday, adding that the protesters should visit the governor of their respective states until implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary.
The protest is also to support the strike of members of Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) who have been on strike for two weeks in demand for full financial autonomy and independence for the judiciary.
In compliance with the directive of the NBA president, the NBA Ikeja Branch led by Mr Bartholomew Aguegbodo, began the protest from Ikeja Bar Centre.
The protesting lawyers marched through Oba Akinjobi Way and Oba Akran Avenue to Obafemi Awolowo Way and Alausa Secretariat to present to Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, a letter demanding implementation of financial autonomy for the state judiciary.
The protesters stopped briefly at Allen Avenue/Obafemi Awolowo Roundabout, where Aguegbodo spent few minutes educating members of the public about the protest.
He said that the protest was to ensure a better judiciary in the state.
When the protesters reached Alausa Secretariat, the Government House’s gate was shut against them by security agents who barricaded the road and prevented them from accessing the governor’s office.
There was an argument between the leadership of NBA, Ikeja Branch, and three directors who came at various times to convince the protesters to hand over the letter to them.
The lawyers, however, insisted that they would only give the letter directly to the governor or an officer in his office.
The lawyers were later prevailed upon to send their representatives to go into the government house to despatch the letter.
A four-man team made up of Aguegbodo, two ex-NBA Ikeja chairmen – Mr Monday Ubani and Mr Adesina Ogunlana – and one Mr Chibuzor Agwocha, proceeded into the governor’s office to hand over the letter.
On return, Aguegbodo told journalists that the letter was received and acknowledged by Mr Deji in-charge of administrative mails in the governor’s office.
The NBA chairman described the protest to as “a re-sounding success”.
“We would now wait and see if the governor of Lagos State would adhere to the demands of JUSUN. If he does not, next Monday, we shall proceed on another peaceful protest,” he said.
Aguegbodo disagreed with the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Kazeem Alogba, who had on April 15 said that the judiciary in the state enjoyed financial autonomy.
The NBA chairman said that what obtained in Lagos State was partial compliance with the provisions of the constitution as regards financial autonomy for judiciary.
“We are saying that the autonomy is not in full compliance with the provisions of the constitution.
“What we are demanding, and that is a part of JUSUN’s demand, is that there must be total compliance with the constitution for full financial autonomy.
“It is not one whereby projects by the judiciary would require approval from the executive arm before they are done,” he said.
The chairman said that funds meant for the judiciary should be deducted from the federation account directly.
“We must implement full judicial independence and financial autonomy as provided for in the constitution,” he said.