He told a gathering of lawyers yesterday, in Abuja, that when national security is threatened, the rule of law must take a back seat.
President Buhari, who spoke while declaring open, the 2018 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said: “The rule of law must be subjected to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest. The law can only be optimally practiced in a Nigeria that is safe, secure and prosperous.
“Our apex court has had cause to adopt a position on this issue and it is now a matter of judicial recognition that; where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of society.”
He tasked lawyers ahead of the forthcoming general elections to work for national cohesion and unity, “through your speeches and public positions and, most importantly, in your advocacy in court.”
The president said the theme of the Conference is important ”in view of the fact that it demonstrates the willingness of the NBA to address issues, not only related to the immediate practice of law, but, more importantly, to solutions of wider society’s problems.
”Since the inauguration of this administration, I’ve had the privilege of observing, at first hand, how societies experience transition, attempt transformation and build or strengthen institutions to manage these processes.
As you will recall, this administration’s emergence marked the first successful civilian transition in Nigeria’s democratic history, following the outcome of the 2015 general elections.
Given the enormity of the challenges we inherited, and the yearnings of a citizenry, earnestly desirous of a new way of running national affairs, our first challenge was to transform our country speedily into a society where impunity in the management of national resources would be replaced with a culture of accountability and transparency.
“We needed to deploy our resources to address our common needs, rather than the greed of a callous few. In order to achieve this, we have had to disrupt age-old assumptions and unsettle ancient norms in the management of our national patrimony, as you have all witnessed in the last three years.
“While we have made appreciable progress in several sectors, including public awareness of the need to challenge the corrupt and the brazen in our midst, we have also learnt useful lessons on the dynamism of our society.
“However, elements within every society, including some lawyers, can equally become unduly resistant to change, even where it is proven that such change is to serve the interest of the larger society. At worst, corruption fights back.
“As we gradually move into another season of intense political activities, preparatory to the 2019 general elections, I enjoin you to remember that by reason of your profession, you all have a responsibility to work for national cohesion and unity through your speeches and public positions and, most importantly, in your advocacy in court.
“In the context of opinions and narratives about our past and present political and socio-economic experience, you cannot afford to jettison rational and proper analysis of issues in a manner which builds, rather than destroys the nation.
“I also urge you to work to uphold and improve the sanctity and integrity of our judicial and electoral institutions, which play a fundamental role in the sustenance and growth of our democracy.”
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