President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, said on Monday that the judges and lawyers could no longer practise freely in the North-East because of insurgency in the area.
Mahmoud, who spoke while inaugurating the NBA’s North-East and Niger-Delta task forces in Abuja, said lawyers were endangered in the region.
He said with internally displaced persons in the North-East “estimated to be about 2.3 million which is the third largest in the world after Syria and Columbia”, insurgency in the region had affected the independence of the legal profession.
He added that judges had been avoiding some types of cases out fear instilled by the lack of adequate protection for them and members of their families.
He said, “It is also worthy of mention that the insurgency in the North-East has affected the independence of the legal profession and the welfare of our members.
“Legal practice in the North-Eastern Nigeria has been largely disrupted as a result of the insurgency in the region. Our noble colleagues in that part of the country are besieged and endangered.
“There are even many of our members from other parts of Nigeria who have lived and practiced in North Eastern Nigeria for years. Some even married and settled there. But as I speak, most of our members have not only lost their practice as professionals, but have also lost their livelihoods and physical well-being.
“Even some of our members are regarded as insurgents and threatened with prosecution.
“Also judicial officers are loathe to adjudicate on certain types of cases in the absence of adequate protection of their lives and families.
“This is the situation in which our members have found themselves in the North East of Nigeria.”
The two panels, inaugurated by the NBA president are to among others, assist the victims of the crises in the two regions.
Part of the assistance which the task forces were mandated to provide as contained in their separate terms of reference included, “legal assistance and support to our members affected by the conflict; and pro bono legal assistance to individuals and communities within the region affected by the conflict.”
The task forces will also “advise on the general challenges in the region with a view to enhancing environmental protection and the quality of life in the region.”
They are also to give regular reports to the national leadership of the association.