The Nigerian presidency on Sunday threatened to drag a lawyer, Nnamdi Nwokocha to court over a recent interview he granted on a suit a ‘certificate’ suit he instituted against President Muhammadu Buhari.
The lawyer had dragged the President to court to compel him to show his West African Examination School Certificate which is a prerequisite for contesting the presidency.
Nwokocha had in the case asked a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to declare that the President was not qualified to contest the 2015 presidential election which he won because he did not have the certificate.
He therefore asked the court to nullify Buhari’s victory in the presidential election.
President Buhari had denied the claims and had published a photocopy of his certificate in reaction to similar controversies during the campaign for 2015 polls.
While the fresh suit by Nwokocha on the certificate controversy has been adjourned indefinitely by the court, Mallam Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the President on media and publicity accused the lawyer of trying to prejudice public opinion against the President by declaring him guilty on the pages of newspapers in breach of ethical code of lawyers in the interview.
The President’s media aide told journalists on Sunday that it was unfair for a lawyer who is a litigant to a case in court to go out of his way to hijack the power of a Judge by declaring the President guilty of what he is accused of.
According to him, newspaper pages are not alternative courts where a lawyer can declare anybody guilty of anything when the court has not formally given a definitive judgment on an issue before it.
“The two-pages interview splashed on pages 56-57 of ThisDay edition of Saturday June 11th breaches a lawyer’s ethical code and we hope that the court and the Bar Association will take notice of this,” he said.
Shehu added that if the lawyer sincerely believes in judicial process and the rights of other parties to a case, he would not have engaged in the inappropriate and unprofessional practice of trial by media when the court has not made that declaration. He further noted free speech is not synonymous with recklessness and wanton abuse of the rights of other parties to a case in court.
While noting that gag orders emerged in the United States on account of lawyers’ inappropriate conduct on trying and convicting people on the pages of newspapers or the court of public opinion, Shehu added that if Nwokocha did not stop his unfair and professionally inappropriate abuse of free speech, the President’s competent team of lawyers will use the instrumentality of law to deal with his unethical actions.
“The litigant’s unabashed claim that he was a card-carrying member of the opposition PDP which lost power in the last election clearly indicates a scheme that seeks power by circumventing the democratic process of elections,” he added.