Mixed reactions have continued to trail yesterday’s peaceful protest organised by a group of lawyers under the aegis of the Forum of Concerned Lawyers of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Port Harcourt branch in Rivers State, over what they described as non-appointment of a substantive or acting Chief Judge by the state government.
The protesting lawyers, numbering about 40, all dressed in their ceremonial wigs and ties, carried various placards, with some inscriptions such as “the law is for all humans”, and “Governor Amaechi, give us a Chief Judge”, among others, marched around the Rivers State Judiciary and the Federal High Court premises to register their grievances.
Reacting to the incident in a telephone interview, Chairman, NBA, Port Harcourt branch, Mr Lawrence Oko-Jaja, said those who carried out the protest yesterday were hired lawyers, adding that members of the NBA in the state did not plan to protest or participate in any purported peaceful protest in Port Harcourt.
According to him, the people, who were said to have participated in the protest, were allegedly given suits and wigs to wear to create the impression that they were lawyers, adding that he was reliably informed by members of his executive that they only recognised two lawyers amongst the protesters.
“My brother, I’m also a lawyer. Currently, I’m out of the state for a matter but will come back in the next few hours. The people you see there are not all lawyers but are hired people except only two persons. And you know that court premises are a public place. But the people you see wearing suits and wigs are only creating an impression that they are lawyers when they are not,” Oko-Jaja said.
The Port Harcourt NBA chairman used the opportunity to thank members of the association for not participating in the protest, adding that both executive and general meetings of the body would be called soon to address the matter.
He said that if the conveners of the protest are found guilty of any acts of misconduct, they would be punished in accordance with the relevant sections of the law guiding the NBA, stressing that the leadership of the NBA did not give approval for such protest.
However, while addressing journalists at the Rivers State Judiciary Complex in Port Harcourt, Chief Coordinator of the Concerned Lawyers Forum of the NBA, Port Harcourt branch, Barrister Chris Itamunoala disclosed that the peaceful protest was to register their disenchantment over the continued failure of the state government to appoint a substantive or acting Chief Judge for the state judiciary in accordance with the provisions of the rule of law.
Itamunoala said that the non-appointment of a Chief Judge has gravely affected the fortunes of lawyers and the litigants in the state as well as other stakeholders of the judiciary in the state.
According to him, “judiciary staff, who are due for promotion have not been promoted; opening ceremony for the 2013/2014 legal year, has not been kick-started, among others,” adding that “even our fallen colleagues are no longer given valedictory session, occasioned by the unavailability of a Chief Judge in the state judiciary.”
He, however, appealed to the state government and the National Judicial Commission (NJC) to ensure the appointment of either a substantive or acting chief judge for the state.
Reacting to the illegal protest, Chief Registrar (High Court), Leonard K. Adoki said in a statement, that the state judiciary was not on strike and has not permitted any group of persons to carry out protest within its premises.
Adoki further said that, “accordingly, staff of the state judiciary, lawyers and members of the public are advised to go about their lawful duties and businesses in the court complex,” and ignore any group pretending to be protesting over the appointment or otherwise of a chief judge for the state.
The Tide learnt that judges, magistrates and judiciary workers had defied the earlier warning by the protesters to stay away from the courts, and resumed normal duties in their respective offices as early as 7:30am, thus ensuring that the impact of the protest was not felt, as judges, magistrates, lawyers and judiciary workers were on hand performing their legitimate duties without any molestation.
It was further learnt that at the state judiciary, the Federal High Court and Court of Appeal complexes, no officials from the courts came out to receive and address the protesters.
The Tide gathered that the organisers of the protest were visibly frustrated and embarrassed when, at every point, they were not noticed or accorded due attention.
Ogoni Youths Give FG 14 Days To Fix East-West Road
No fewer than 400 youths under the aegis of Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), yesterday, staged a peaceful protest at the Eleme axis of the East-West Road, giving the Federal Government 14 days ultimatum to mobilize to site and fix the road or have economic activities in the area grounded.
The protesters, who carried various placards with inscriptions to press home their demands, trekked from Akpajo Junction to Refinery Junction in Eleme LGA, chanting solidarity songs to register their discontent over the neglect of the road.
Addressing newsmen during the protest, President General of the Ogoni Youth Federation, Comrade Legborsi Yaamabana, said it was regrettable that the road, which was a major route to the economic hub of the nation, has remained in a deplorable state, only becoming a death trap that has terminated the lives of innocent Ogonis.
Yaamabana, who described the mass action of the youths as a ‘warning protest’, said if the contractors handling the road were not immediately mobilized to site, then, the youths will have no option than to shut down all economic activities in the area.
He said, “we cannot continue to watch our people being killed on daily basis by tankers because of the poor state of Eleme axis of the east west road, we are calling on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency fix the road and save our people from untimely deaths as a result of the sorry state of the road, the only bridge on the road at Aleto has collapse but nothing is being done to avert the disasters faced by our people daily”.
Yaamabana also called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to constitute a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission to address the development needs of the Niger Delta region, noting that the use of interim management for NDDC was “diversionary, self serving and not in the interest of the development of the Niger Delta region”.
The OYF president general also called on the Federal Government to exonerate Ken Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots who were extra-judicially murdered by the late Gen Sani Abacha military junta, and given post-humours honour as martyrs of democracy in Nigeria, while the ideals of justice they stood for should be upheld.
Also speaking, the immediate past secretary of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eastern Zone, Comrade James Tobin, who joined the protest in solidarity, decried the neglect of the East—West Road by the Federal Government, and called the immediate fixing of the road to save the teeming road users from untold pains and death.
By: Taneh Beemene
Rising Prices Push 7m Nigerians Below Poverty Line -World Bank
The World Bank has said that rising prices pushed about seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020.
This was contained in a press statement titled, ‘Critical reforms needed to reduce inflation and accelerate the recovery, says new World Bank report,’ released by the World Bank’s Senior External Affairs Officer of Nigeria, Mansir Nasir.
The press statement was released, yesterday, in line with the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update.
It was acknowledged that the Federal Government “took measures to protect the economy against a much deeper recession” but it was recommended that certain policies should be set for a strong recovery.”
The statement read, “The NDU, titled ‘Resilience through Reforms,’ notes that in 2020, the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8 per cent than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2 per cent). Although the economy started to grow again, prices are increasing rapidly, severely impacting Nigerian households.
“As of April, 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years. Food prices accounted for over 60% of the total increase in inflation. Rising prices have pushed an estimated seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.”
Quoted in the statement, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, identified some of the challenges faced by the country and recommended a way forward.
“Nigeria faces interlinked challenges in relation to inflation, limited job opportunities, and insecurity.
“While the government has made efforts to reduce the effect of these by advancing long-delayed policy reforms, it is clear that these reforms will have to be sustained and deepened for Nigeria to realise its development potential,” Chaudhuri said.
Also quoted is the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the NDU, Marco Hernandez, who also gave a recommendation.
“Given the urgency to reduce inflation amidst the pandemic, a policy consensus and expedite reform implementation on exchange-rate management, monetary policy, trade policy, fiscal policy, and social protection would help save lives, protect livelihoods, and ensure a faster and sustained recovery,” Hernandez said.
Inflation Dips To 17.93% In May, NBS Confirms
Nigeria’s inflation rate dropped to 17.93 per cent in May, 2021, from 18.12 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed this in its monthly Consumer Price Index report released, yesterday.
The drop in the headline inflation in May was the second consecutive month this year.
The report indicates that the consumer price index (CPI), which measures the inflation rate increased by 17.93 per cent (year-on-year) in May, 2021, which is 0.19 per cent points lower than the rate recorded in the preceding month.
According to NBS, food inflation dropped in the same month from 22.78 per cent recorded in April, 2021 to 22.28 per cent in May, 2021.
The report reads, ‘‘All items less farm produce which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 13.15 per cent in May, 2021, up by 0.41 per cent when compared with 12.74 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
‘‘The highest increases were recorded in prices of pharmaceutical products, garments, shoes and other footwear, hairdressing salons and personal grooming establishments, furniture and furnishing, carpet and other floor covering.
‘‘Others include, motor cars, Hospital services, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing.
“Other services include personal transport equipment, gas, household textile, and non-durable household goods,” the NBS added.
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