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By NBF News

Members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) have been called upon to  ensure that they play the role of watchdogs and vanguards for the forthcoming general elections in the country. The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister for Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), who made the call in Kaduna yesterday at the annual conference of the NBA, added that the organization of credible elections depended largely on members of the Bar since, according to him, they have been playing stakeholders' role in the democratic process of the country.

Adoke, therefore, charged the learned men to redouble their advisory roles at ensuring that 2011 general elections were devoid of malpractices and any other abnormalities that may be associated with the election of the country's political leaders just as the out going president of the NBA, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, said the country should emulate the credible manner the association conducted its last national election in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.

'As you are all aware, 2011 is an election year, and given our past (less than satisfactory) history of conducting election in this country, you will be requested to serve not only as vanguards for democracy at this critical time but also as  watch dogs  for the  observance of democratic tenets and values, such as the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.

'It is in this content that I wish to situate the theme of this year's  conference: Nigeria at 50, looking back, looking forward, I consider it to be quite apt and relevance especially with respect to the role of the Bar in our democracy.

'I hope that free, fair and credible election can be organized in the country if we are all committed to it. The Bar has always played a critical role in our democratic process, it must, therefore, continue to see itself as critical stakeholder in our democratic system and process.

'It must continue to offer useful advice to government, the Independent  National Electoral  Commission (INEC), political actors and the entire citizenry in order to ensure that the 2011 general  elections are free, fair and credible.

'Let me assure you of this administration's commitment to free, fair and credible elections. His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has demonstrated this commitment through several public utterances and concrete action such as the provision of enabling environment and resources required to enable this objective to be attained,' the AGF said.

'I, therefore, wish to seize this unique opportunity to call on the Bar to partner with the government in this endeavour. The Bar should not only concern itself with criticizing the process, but must be  proactive enough to be part of the solution of preventive efforts.

'The theme  of this year's conference implies that we ought to be engaged in some form of soul searching.

'However, it is also true that our country had lagged behind other democracies that are perhaps less endowed in infrastructural delivery, power generation and distribution, healthcare, education, democratic values, among others.

'Prominent among the factors that have engendered  our under development in this  sphere of human endeavour is corruption. Looking back, we must ask ourselves how we allowed  our nation to degenerate to such a state that our natural resources were freely freighted away to foreign lands. Looking forward, we must ask ourselves, how do we reverse the trend, and ensure good governance of our country.

According to Oluwarotimi 'the successful conclusion of the NBA elections in Ibadan has, in no small measure, enhanced the image of the NBA,'  and urged politicians all over the country to use the NBA election as a yardstick in the conduct of future polls in the country.