Nigerian lawyers protest new bail conditions in Ondo in June


Striking members of the Nigeria Bar Association in Ondo State have suspended their two-month-old strike.

A source in the association revealed this to a SaharaReporters correspondent this morning during a chat in Akure, the state capital.

SaharaReporters had reported how the justices were delayed for over two months across all judicial courts in the state because of the strike.

According to the source, the chief judge of the state, Justice Olasehinde Kumuyi, had succumbed to pressure and had to withdraw the circular letter mandating surety standing. The controversial move was one where an accused person had to post a tax clearance before they could be released.

The source added that judicial activities would now bounce back to normal in all courts in the state, as of this week.

"Our strike has been called off, and we have met with the Chief Judge of the State at a meeting where an agreement was reached.”

"Part of the agreement was the promise of the chief judge to withdraw the circular letter, and which he has already done, right now has I am speaking with you.”

"Lawyers have been directed to resume back to their duty position, and ensure all pending cases are revisited," the source said.

The source refused to state the full outcome of the meeting and series of agreements reached between the lawyers and the Chief Judge when our correspondent pressed for further details.

Justice Kumuyi had instructed the office of the Chief Registrar of the State High Court to issue a letter with the directive that ‘a pre-condition for approval/perfection’ of all bail applications shall among others, include the ‘production of evidence’ of tax payment for the current year, or tax clearance by the surety/sureties’.

The circular letter was signed by Toyin Akinrinsola, the Chief Registrar of the High Court, and pasted in all Courts of Justice in the state. The reference Number was CROD/0012/01/61, and it was addressed to all Magistrates and Registrars of the state High Courts and Magistrate’s Court.

Also, the aggrieved lawyers had pressured the embattled Chief judge of the state to withdraw the circular, after several protests were held across major courts of the state.

The Association had barred lawyers from visiting courts, and stalled all court proceedings.

The strike paralyzed court sittings while unconfirmed reports revealed that two accused persons standing trial in one of the Magistrate courts, had died in prison custody.
 
The government had used security officials, including military personnel, has tools of weapons to harass the striking lawyers.

When SaharaReporters contacted Kayode Dare, chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association’s Akure branch, he confirmed that an agreement was reached with the Chief judge and the circular had been withdrawn.
 
Dare, who expressed bitterness over how the state government had been toying with the justice developments of the state, said members of the bar would resume sittings as of this week.

He disclosed that bail is a constitutional right and it should be maintained.

Sources at the State Ministry of Justice also confirmed the withdrawal of the circular letter to our correspondent. 

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