The Presidency on Sunday threatened to sue a lawyer, Mr. Nnamdi Nwokocha, for basically giving a public opinion on a pending suit on President Muhammadu Buhari’s certificate.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, reacted on behalf of the Presidency in an interview with journalists in Abuja.
Shehu warned the lawyer that if he did not stop his “unfair and professionally inappropriate abuse of free speech”, the President’s lawyers would use the instrumentality of the law in dealing with his unethical actions.
Shehu faulted a recent interview Nwokocha granted a national newspaper, saying it is unfair for a lawyer who is a litigant in a case pending in court to hijack the power of a judge by declaring the President guilty of what he is accused of on the pages of newspapers.
He said, “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-page interview published on Saturday, June 11 breaches lawyers’ ethical code and we hope that the court and the Nigerian Bar Association will take notice of this.” Shehu said any lawyer that sincerely believes in judicial process and the rights of other parties to a case would not have engaged in what he called “the inappropriate and unprofessional practice of trial by media.”
He particularly faulted a situation where Nwokocha openly declared the President guilty when the court had yet to make such declaration. The presidential aide observed 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.
“Free speech is not synonymous with recklessness and wanton abuse of the rights other parties to a case in court.
“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.