The Lagos State Government has disclosed its plans of equipping its Forensic Centre with Chemistry and Toxicology units to strengthen criminal investigations in the state.
Solicitor General/Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Funlola Odunlami made the disclosure at the 4th Lagos Forensic Symposium at Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.
According to Odunlami, the unit which would be operational by 2020 would help the government to uncover illegal use of controlled substances and drugs in the state.
“The inclusion of the forensic chemistry and toxicology checks will enhance criminal investigations in the state and also speedy up the identification and conviction of perpetrators of cases related to intake of poisonous and harmful substances in the body,” Odulami said.
She added, the Lagos State DNA and Forensic Centre located at Odunlami area of Lagos Island had played significant role in investigating over 100 cases of deaths, identification of exhumed human remains, rape and burglary since commencement of operations in 2017.
The Lagos State Solicitor-General further noted that the forensic centre had also investigated about 300 cases of paternity and other heredity related issues.
Odunlami posited that Nigeria “has finally joined the international community’s efforts in applying scientific methods to prosecution, defence, law enforcement, criminal investigations, national security and disaster management.”
She said the symposium was aimed at providing the public with information on the role of forensic science in criminal investigation and its importance to law enforcement agencies and the judiciary on mass fatalities, sexual assault, and other issues.
Lagos Police Commissioner, Zubairu Muazu said the introduction of forensic science had helped in utilising Criminal Speciality Law in investigating criminal identities and exonerate the innocent persons.
Muazu, represented by the deputy commissioner of Police CIID, Mrs. Yetunde Alonge said investment in forensic investigation had shown the visionary leadership of the Lagos State Government.
He urged the participants to tap into the wealth of knowledge of the professionals that spoke at the symposium.
Also, the Centre Director of Lagos State DNA and Forensic Centre, Dr. Richard Somiari, disclosed that Lagos State DNA and Forensic was the only laboratory accredited for Forensic DNA analysis in Nigeria.
He added that the database would accelerate the process of identifying victims of crimes, linking crimes to one another and also identifying serial offenders.
While commending the Police Force collaboration effort with the Lagos State Forensic Centre, the Director said forensic services are also available to NGOs, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors and other members of the public.
The Lagos State Forensic Centre was established in 2017 to aid criminal investigation through DNA analysis.
Participants at the 4th Forensic Symposium includes Judges, Magistrates, Lawyers, Legislators, Police, Immigration, Customs, Investigators, Forensic Pathologist/Scientists, Medical practitioners, Emergency Responders, Fire Brigade, Investigative Journalists, Students and the Press.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice has begun a two-day sensitization programme on the benefits of plea and sentence bargain for inmates in Ikoyi, Kirikiri (medium & maximum) Prisons.
According to the Director of Public Prosecution, Ms.Titilayo Shitta-bey, plea bargain was a criminal initiative that permitted defendants to plead guilty and get a reduced charge for a more severe sentence.
Shitta-bey said Sections 75 and 76 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State (ACJL), 2015 granted inmates an access to plea bargain.
According to the Director Public Prosecution, who was represented by a deputy director in the Directorate, Mrs. Oluwafemi Adenike further noted that the sections of the law helps defendants reduce time spent in custody while awaiting trial and also decongest the prisons.
Shitta-bey stated that Attorney-General of the State determined beneficiaries of plea bargain based on recommendations given by a Plea-Bargain Committee set up by the Directorate of Public Prosecution.
The Director urged the inmates to beware of fraudulent lawyers who demand for money before filing application for plea bargain on behalf of defendants. She said is free and accessible to all as contained in the Criminal Law.
While receiving the counsel at the Ikoyi prison, the Deputy controller of prison, Tolu Ogunsakin appreciated the Lagos State Government initiative towards decongesting the prisons and quickening the trial process for inmates with pending cases in Courts.
Ogunsakin urged government to explore other ways of reducing congestion in courts and prisons through Parole System and Community Service Sentencing.
Onigbajo, Adegboruwa canvass unfettered press freedom
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Ebun-olu Adegboruwa, at the weekend canvassed absolute press freedom as a mechanism needed for Nigeria to achieve meaningful growth and viable economic develoipment.
According to the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, there were sufficient laws to restrain abuse of social media just as the fear by the ruling elite of the consequences of a truly free press was misplaced.
The silk made the disclosure while delivering a paper at the 2019 annual lecture of the National Association of Judicial Correspondents (NAJUC), Lagos branch.
In his speech, Adegboruwa noted that the concept of press freedom was well entrenched in the laws of the country while the Constitution apart from imposing a duty on the media to hold government accountable to the people had also made provision for the freedom and rights of the press to carry out the onerous task in aid of nation building.
To him, the press occupied a pivotal role in every society as it represented the conscience and values of a people and more importantly, a veritable link of information being exchanged between the people and their government.
Adegboruwa said: “It is pertinent to note that the issue of press freedom in Nigeria is of great importance, as one would observe from Section 39 of the Constitution that it falls within the realm of fundamental rights codified in Chapter IV of the Constitution. The import of this, is that press freedom is an inalienable right which no government can derogate from or deny her citizens.
“The advent of the new social media has aided Nigerians like all other citizens of the world, in giving full expression to the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression and right to hold and disseminate opinion on any matter.
“The advent of twitter, facebook, instagram and others in that category has empowered Nigerians especially young people to either expose various forms of malfeasance prevalent in society or to mobilize for causes which they believe can better their lives.
“It is conceded that there are the challenges of fake news, hate speeches, defamation and other vices associated with the use of social media. However, is that enough justification to further regulate the already regulated use of the social media through the enactment of regulations, which sometimes violate constitutional provisions? There exist abundant of laws already put in place which are sufficient to curb any fear that government officials and other well meanings Nigerians may have.”
Adegboruwa was echoed by Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), who in his speech assured of government’s resolve to ensure unfettered press freedom.
Onigbanjo, who was represented by the Lagos State Deputy Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Dr. Jide Martins, was of the view that the state must act in a robust manner to ensure that press freedom was not abused but employed to advance constructive criticism.
He said: “It is pivotal that all citizens exercise and enjoys their right to freedom of expression, press freedom and association within the parameters of the law and other citizens’ rights are not breached.
“Some of the advantages of social media are also some of its bane. The fact that people can assume a false identity and disseminate information that can potentially cause offence, harms and breach of national security is of great concern”, he said.
In his opening remarks, NAJUC’s Chairman, Mr. Peter Fowoyo, said the press must be free of all encumbrances in order to discharge its duty effectively to members of the public.
He called on the Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ), the Nigerian Guilds of Editors (NGE) and the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) to recognize the impact of beat associations and see them as partners in progress.
“We are in consternation as to why an informed union such as the NUJ, without a valid court order and the moral right, proscribed beat associations as guaranteed under our laws,” he said.
On the occasion, awards were presented to some individuals in recognition of their achievements.
Among the recipients of the awards are; Chief Emeka Okpoko (SAN), who received the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team of the Year 2019; Mr. Ebun-olu Adegboruwa (SAN), who received the best human right lawyer 2019; Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, who received the best financial crime prosecutor of 2019 and Mr. Kayode Oyekanmi, who received the best public sector officer of 2019.
Adedeji: Osinbajo can waive immunity for adjudication
Mr. Ade Adedeji, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in this interview with AKEEM NAFIU speaks on anti-graft war, rule of law, delay in justice system and sundry issues
What is your view on the anti-graft war of Buhari’s administration?
I think the policy of the government on corruption should be applauded for so many reasons. We have reached the stage in this country where corruption has become so endemic and it is indeed an understatement to state that unless something is done about it, we cannot go anywhere. What do I mean by that? As a nation working hard to move to the next level of industrialisation, to grow the economy generally, we surely must address the issue of corruption.
Some of your colleagues have expressed concerns about the manner the anti-graft war is being fought, especially the constitutionality of some of government’s actions. What’s your take on this?
The way we address corruption must be such that everybody must be carried along, it must be done in such a way that the government that is leading the campaign must be at the forefront of carrying the whole nation along and essentially making the point that unless we all come together and fight this cancer, we cannot survive either in the short run or in the long run. In doing that, however, one thing seems very clear to me: the government must do it constitutionally; it must do it in accordance with the law. We cannot fight corruption when we continue to disobey orders of court, we cannot fight corruption when the rule of law is grossly abused; we can’t fight corruption when indeed the people that are leading the fight are corrupt.
How do you mean sir?
What do I mean by that? The leaders who are leading the fight could be said to be corrupt when they grossly disobeyed orders of court.
For instance, when they abuse the rule of law; abuse of rule of law in my view is in itself corruption, when things are not done in accordance with the law, in accordance with the laid down rules, it can only amount to corruption. So, if you’re going to lead the campaign, you must be seen as clean in every area, particularly in those areas as I have mentioned.
How would you assess the body of lawyers’ reaction to instances where the rule of law is being trampled on by the government?
It is most unfortunate that the lawyers who used to lead the campaign on corruption have failed in our responsibility to actually lead the campaign against the excesses of government in those areas. A point of reference is, of course, the situation in Pakistan a few years ago. The lawyers’ association successfully resisted every abuse of the government to water down the powers and independence of the Judiciary in Pakistan and, of course, they’re benefiting from that today. What do we have in Nigeria? We have in Nigeria presently the body of lawyers that has failed in its responsibility to protect the Judiciary, to protect the interest of the Constitution, the fundamental principle of separation of power and the rule of law. I would have thought that in recent history, particularly, in the couple of years with respect to all that we witnessed in this country that lawyers should have been able to stand up and play a vital role. I believe that lawyers failed to perform that pivotal role to be able to steer the course and to be able to actually put the executive arm of government where it belongs at the time in history when they were actually required to do so.
What do you make of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s resolve to waive his immunity to challenge alleged N90 billion campaign fund scandal involving him?
His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has shown clearly to those of us who are watching from outside the quality and integrity of a person in office that we all look forward to in this country. I think that statement alone, let me start by saying that, I am most impressed, it has proven beyond reasonable doubt that this is a man of integrity, this is a man that could be trusted when all chips are down, this is a man that we use as a model of people that should be voted into office in this country. The reason for that is simple, it’s very rare and unusual for us to have somebody of his status coming out to say: “Look, I am ready and prepared to suspend my immunity if need be”. By merely saying that, he is also telling us that if anybody is in doubt, he doesn’t have anything that is hidden or shady about his conduct and performance in office as the Vice President of this country. Now, on the question of whether or not he can do that, I think there are a couple of Supreme Court decisions on whether or not he could waive the constitutional immunity and the verdict is to the effect that the President or the Vice President, The Governor or his deputy could waive or elect to suspend such immunity. I believe that he must have looked at all the ramifications before he came to that conclusion.
But I also believe that the adversaries and these people who, for political reasons, for reasons of getting to power, are making these allegations, would get the message that no matter how hard they try, they may be fighting a failed battle and that is my view on that issue. Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is a man of integrity and I believe when all chips are down, everybody will see that clearly and all the people that are drawing knives now, that they’re beginning to look at future election will have themselves to blame and it is just a question of time.
Trial delay is a major problem in the Nigerian judicial system. Cases often spend years before being concluded. How do you think judicial proceedings can be hastened up?
Cases are delayed in our courts for a lot of reasons, some of which are lawful. For instance, parties to an action must be served and in some cases, personally. Where the court is unable to serve a party personally, the rules of court require that a formal application shall be brought to request for an order of court for substituted service like pasting on last known address, etc. All these efforts take time and the issue relating to service is fundamental. It is a serious issue of procedure that things must be done properly and in accordance with the rules.
But having said that there is no doubt that there are so many instances of delay in proceedings that are unlawful and distasteful, Lagos Judicial Division, for instance, is the 3rd jurisdiction in Africa with highest volume of actions instituted as at 2016 (after Cairo and Johannesburg) have a lot of cases that I call frivolous that should not even be in court.
I believe efforts at mediation and arbitration are beginning to address these issues. Of importance, however, is the abuse by litigants and counsel. It is therefore my argument that incessant or frequent review of our rules may really not work if we do not change our attitude and I think it is about time we considered awarding huge penalties against parties and counsel who deliberately involve in sharp practices to stall proceedings.
What is your view on the idea of establishing regional courts of appeal and supreme courts, the way it is done in other clime, for instance, America?
First, let me explain that this suggestion can only be appreciated within the context of the principle of federalism. We must first of all admit that we are confused and uncertain of what system of government we want or wish to run. If under the constitution, we claim to run a federalist system, then our judicial system is definitely unacceptable. Since it seems now politically incorrect to say that this view is a slice of the call for “restructuring”, I will simply say that the view simply echoes what a federalist society should be. It is only in Nigeria that the Supreme Court of a nation is open for business every day of the week and as we witnessed two months ago, all of the eminent justices (17 in number) were ordered to forget their annual vacation to attend to among other things, frivolous appeals that ordinarily should not attract their attention.
Just 38 lawyers were sworn in as Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) last month. Some lawyers feel that this number, as is usually the case, is too small considering the large number of applicants. Do you agree?
The rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria is meant for advocates who have distinguished themselves in advocacy and have excelled or contributed to the development of law and practice. I can confirm to you that our nation is blessed with lawyers in various fields who have contributed to the growth and development of law and practice and deserving of recognition. I believe for instance, that there are Solicitors (lawyers) who deserve recognition. Same for administrators and legislators. But these categories are not advocates statutorily qualified for such awards. Just maybe a different award should be created to recognize them for their excellence. With respect to advocates, I believe there are so many more advocates who daily prove their mettle in court rooms but are unknown due to their areas of practice. I believe we need to constantly reform our laws and rules to recognize otherwise brilliant lawyers in this category. I have some colleagues/contemporaries and many of us know them due to their industry and brilliance but unfortunately, may not be recognized because the rules provided to prequalify them do not allow them to come forward. If the nets are cast wide, I believe an elevation of 40 lawyers to the Inner Bar may even be more acceptable.
Following the exit of former CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, it has been suggested that the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is, unlike other courts, not really subject to the National Judicial Council’s authority. Some lawyers even consider it as a tool of the Presidency. What is your view?
The Code of Conduct Tribunal, for all intents and purpose is an inferior court apart from lawyers, even the judicial officers in the course of proceedings, regarded themselves as something close to an appendage of the President. It is my view that considering the huge functions and responsibilities of that tribunal and in order to enhance its status, there is need (urgent need) to appoint highly qualified and senior judicial officers to sit on the tribunal.
Many people have blamed much of the country’s problems on its supposedly faulty structure and constitution. They feel that the Constitution should be amended to allow devolution of powers and resources from the federal to states and local governments. Where do you stand on this debate?
Your question appears to touch on the need for restructuring or otherwise. My response is obvious if you consider my earlier response to the need to create state appellate courts. Nigeria, without a doubt, cannot continue to operate a unitary system under a constitution that is premised on a federal structure. It is a contradiction and it is bound to fail. In some instances, we do not need even to amend the constitution to achieve this purpose. Certain sections of the Constitution should be challenged in court first and foremost.
My view is supported by the Supreme Court decision in Lagos State v. Federal Republic of Nigeria where Lagos State actually challenged the Federal Government on certain clear provisions of the Constitution giving them powers to create local government and won.
Relieving Nigeria of NASS’ financial burden
- Lawyers: Legislative business should be part-time
Will pruning of lawmakers at the National Assembly as being canvassed by a Senator representing Imo West Senatorial District, Rochas Okorocha, bring down the cost of governance and relieve the nation of huge financial burden? Lawyers say no. AKEEM NAFIU reports
ome members of the wig and gown have said the financial burden placed on the nation by the humongous cost of running the National Assembly is not a function of the numerical strength of the legislators.
The lawyers were responding to a proposition by a Senator representing Imo West Senatorial District, Rochas Okorocha, that there should be a reduction in the number of Senators and House of Representatives’ members in order to save cost and reduce the cost of governance.
Okorocha, a former governor of Imo State, bared his mind while contributing to a debate on the report on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper submitted by the National Assembly joint Committee on Finance and National Planning.
He believed that a downward review in the number of legislators at the National Assembly was desirable for the attainment of reduction in cost of governance and fiscal discipline.
“This country must begin to make sacrifices. Our country provides that we have three senators. What are three senators per state doing that one single senator from that state cannot do?
“With over 300 representatives from each state; each of them creates increased demands from the economic system.
“What we need to have under the present ugly situation is a senatorial representative, one per state to reduce cost of governance.”
“Our Senate, this red chamber must not operate our budget from an accountant perspective but an economic perspective,” Okorocha said.
The former governor’s concern was not unconnected with the public outrage that has continued to trail the monthly take-home of 109 Senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives.
In a nation where many citizens are living below the poverty line, the lawmakers are earning far more than their counterparts in other parts of the world, including developed countries.
According to reports, a senator’s take-home pay is N182,060,000 per annum at the rate of N15,171,666.66 monthly while the annual take-home pay of a member of the House of Representatives stands at N136.68 million at a monthly take-home pay of N11.39 million.
Reports also say it that the take-home pay of a Nigerian senator is 281.56 times higher than the country’s per capita income, while that of a member of the House of Representatives is 218.69 times higher than the per capita income.
Worst still, in the 2020 Appropriation Bill of N10.33 trillion recently presented to the Joint Session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, a whopping sum of N125 billion was earmarked for the Legislature to the detriment of other key sectors of the economy like Education and Health, which got a paltry N48 billion and N46 billion respectively.
Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, has also joined the fray by calling for the scrapping of the Senate in order to save cost and reduce financial burden on the government.
The governor said the country cannot continue to operate a bicameral legislature in the face of harsh economic conditions.
According to him, a unicameral legislature would be more productive for Nigeria in this current economic situation.
“We do need to look at the size of government in Nigeria and I am an advocate of a unicameral legislature. What we really need is the House of Representatives, because that is what represents.
“You have three senators from little Ekiti and you have three senators from Lagos State. It’s a no-brainer that it’s unequal, I guess the principle is not proportionality but that if you are a state, you get it automatically.
“But I think that we can do away with that. There are several things that we can do away within the government,” he said.
In the meantime, some senior lawyers are also canvassing part-time legislature as a way of cutting cost. The lawyers were of the views that reducing the number of legislators may not necessarily reduce the running cost except legislative business was made a part-time.
They also argued that a reduction in the number of legislators as being canvassed by Senator Okorocha was not possible without an amendment to the Constitution.
In his views, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola, said a way of bringing down the running cost of the National Assembly was to make legislative business part-time.
He was of the view that it is not illegal for legislators to be engaged in other business while also performing their legislative business.
He said: “The reduction is only possible with an amendment to the Constitution. I think it’s the way our legislators have taken legislative business that that has giving rise to suggestions like these. Nigeria’s economy is currently in shambles and something urgent must be done to salvage the situation.
“In the United States, there is only one Senator per state. Before now, we use to have five Senators from each Senatorial zone before it was reduced to three and we can even reduce it further. But, the fact remains that even when Nigeria was having five Senators per state, we are not spending as much as we are spending now. The budget of the National Assembly was not as huge as it is presently.
“However, reducing the number of legislators may not necessarily reduce the cost except legislative business is made part-time. We must also do something about the humongous amount these legislators are collecting in the name of constituency allowance, salaries, allowances and so on.
“I agree with Rochas that we should have only one Senator from each state of the federation, but for it to have meaningful effect, legislative business should be made part-time. The reduction will necessarily not be a function of reduced expenditure.
“We must embark on holistic approach and surgical operation on how legislative duties will henceforth be carried out in Nigeria. Therefore, I am suggesting that in addition to the reduction of numbers, we should make the duty of a legislator part-time. After all, the Constitution stipulates a maximum of 180 days and minimum of 61 days for the legislators to sit in a year. So, if a legislator sits for 61 days, he has complied with the constitutional requirements. The Constitution did not say the legislators must be in the parliament for 365 days.
“When I was in the parliament in my state as a Deputy Speaker, I was also going to court. Even, those who went to court to challenge my going to court lost out. I was a regular face in the courtroom even as a Deputy Speaker. This means they can equally continue with their profession while also carrying out their legislative duties”.
Another silk, Chief Mike Ahamba, also threw his weight behind part-time legislature. He also suggested that there should be just a chamber of the National Assembly.
He faulted Senator Okorocha’s proposal, saying it was not the way to go.
“Why doesn’t Okorocha start by going away from the National Assembly so that there will be no representation for his own people? Or he should stop collecting his allowances. With all these, he can save costs.
“He doesn’t even know that there has to be a constitutional amendment before that kind of change can happen. I don’t think it is a wise thing. That’s not the way to save cost.
“If we are talking about how to reduce their humongous allowances, then, that will make some sense to me, but to say that representation is too much is not true. I am also in support of a unicameral legislature. I also believe in part-time legislature”, Ahamba said
To Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN), the problem with the National Assembly is the lawmakers’ financial profligacy and not about their numerical strength.
He said: “The problem is not really with the number of legislators at the National Assembly, but their financial indiscipline. Even if the numbers were not reduced as being canvassed by Senator Rochas Okorocha and they were being paid legitimate salaries, there would be no issue.
“The problem with the National Assembly as far many Nigerians are concerned is the humongous amount being spent on the lawmakers by way of what they collect monthly which runs into billions of naira. You can imagine a Senator collecting as much as N13 million every month, then, there is a problem.
“So, what I am saying in essence is that if the lawmakers as presently constituted (are not being paid such a ridiculous amount, we will have no problem with the numbers. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, the problem is not with the numbers, but the financial profligacy of these lawmakers.
“These legislators did not disclose what they are earning and this shows lack of transparency and deceit on their part. They are too exorbitant to maintain. So, I feel strongly that something urgent should be done on the cost of running both chambers of the National Assembly. This is where the problem lies and not in their numbers”.
Another member of the Inner Bar, Mr. Emeka Okpoko, faulted the suggestion by Senator Okorocha saying it is unrealistic.
“This suggestion is not realistic and it makes no sense to me. I don’t think the problem lies in their numbers. Remember that each Senatorial zone across the country has its own peculiarity. One of such is the ethnic differences. This will make it difficult for just an individual to represent all the Senatorial zones in a state. No Senator can single-handedly cover the minds and totality of the people in a state.
“Besides, I think the real problem has to do with the cost of running the National Assembly and not the size of both chambers. These people are really milking our system dry. It is the humongous amounts that they keep taking that is the problem”, he said.
A former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Adekunle Ojo, noted that the nation’s present economic condition could no longer sustain bicameral legislature.
He said: “The proposal is one of the ways out of problems confronting Nigeria in that we do not have an economy that can sustain bicameral legislature. It is expensive, bogus and unnecessary. How do you fathom so much that we spend on docile and duplicitous legislative arms? “Not even have they be able to work on an acceptable Constitution that is capable of meeting the yearning of the people since 1999. The proposal is realistic where the lawmakers can drop their entitlement mentality for a better Nigeria. But I do not see that coming in the present assembly”.
A rights activist, Mr. Kabir Akingbolu, believed as laudable as Okorocha’s proposal is, it may be difficult to achieve.
“It’s a constitutional issue which will require amendment. But the problem is who will cast the first stone? I think we deceive ourselves a lot in this country. This is because if Okorocha is really serious about it in a patriotic spirit devoid of political games or gains, he needs not tell us but move a motion for amendment of the necessary provisions of the constitution because the National Assembly of today in Nigeria is the most expensive in the world.
“I remember a former CBN governor allegedly said that the emoluments of each senator is enough to employ 200 Nigerians at N90,000 monthly or 90 Nigerians with N200,000.
“We can’t continue this way to be spending this humongous amount on legislators. It is high time we reduce this and change to unicameral legislature or make it a part- time engagement.
“Nigeria is suffering from heavy bills and why should their pay be shrouded in secrecy? Their pay is too much and unreasonable from all ramifications. It is unfair. We are entitled to know what they earn and it must be reasonable. But above all we don’t need two Houses. No, no, no”, he said.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Destiny Takon, believed that nothing will be achieved with a reduction in the number of federal lawmakers.
He said: “I do not think that the real cause of bad governance and absence of government presence in most parts of the country has to do with the number of federal legislators.
“Contrariwise, I actually think that each local government area in the country, should be represented at the House of Reps, to ensure effective and effectual representation. I believe that the number of our legislators at both Chambers of the National Assembly is not the real problem of our country.
“The real problem is mindless and unmitigated corruption and the absence of patriotism and the nationalist spirit in our leaders. If you count the presidential aides alone, they are almost equal to the number of representatives at the Green Chambers of the National Assembly.
“Corruption permeates every fabric of our national life and it engenders other sister evil vices which are inestricably entwined into our lives as a people like, nepotism, religious bigotry, ethnicity, mediocrity, etc: those are the real issues bedeviling out dear nation”.
To Mohammed Fawehinmi, Okorocha’s suggestion is misconceived and unrealistic.
“The suggestion of Senator Rochas Okorocha, with most profound respect is misconceived. It would prevent several people from the same state the necessary parliamentarian representation. The lower House covers the spectrum of representation better than the Senate. If any house is to be scrapped, it should be the Senate, considering their unconscionable shut downs during the 8th Assembly in solidarity with Saraki, whenever he was summoned to court,” he said.
‘Slow justice system eroding confidence in judiciary’
Lawal Kazeem Olanrewaju bagged his LL.B from Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko in Ondo State. He was called to Bar in 2017. Olanrewaju shares his journey in legal profession with John Chikezie
My name is Lawal Kazeem Olanrewaju and I am from Oyo State. My parents are based in Lagos. I had my primary and Secondary School education at Shadow of Almighty Nursery and Primary School and Ajara Senior Grammar School respectively. In 2016, I graduated from the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko in Ondo State and thereafter, proceeded to the Law School, Kano Campus, for my one year mandatory professional training in Law. I was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2017.
I am currently an associate at Templars, a full service commercial law firm in Lagos.
Choice of career
My decision to study law was neither deliberate nor borne out of any natural love for law. A friend actually inspired me to study law. Interestingly, I came to realise later in life that law, and by extension the legal profession, was perfect for me.
The legal profession affords me the opportunity to continuously solve human challenges, be it in and out of court. Besides, I have also realised that as a legal practitioner, I occupy a prime position in the society and I have always regarded myself as such.
Recently, I was admitted as a member of the Association of Young Arbitrators.
At the moment, I am into commercial litigation and general advisory.
But personally, I have a growing interest in information and communication technology law.
My interest was borne out of the fast pace of development in the ICT world and the need to meet the ever increasing demands of clients operating in that clime.
For instance, in Nigeria, we now have cases of online defamation litigation, which is far cry from the “traditional defamation cases” as we know them. Undoubtedly, knowledge of the interplay between Law and internet is indispensable in handling cases of such nature.
Professionally, pupilage is key in a young lawyer’s professional development. I will describe my pupilage in two phases; the pre-call to bar and post-call to bar phase.
My Pre- call to Bar phase experience was very essential and my basic preparatory stage which had little or no involvement in actual legal practice.
Learning, at this stage, was simply done through observations made in and out of the court room, flavoured with a little legal research.
All of these were done under the tutelage of the Principal Partners at Adebayo and Gbdamosi Legal Practitioners in Ibadan; Mr Adebayo Ojo and Mr. Gbadamosi Kazeem.
While Post Call to Bar phase is an advance stage of pupilage and what I referred to as the “actual pupilage stage”. I moved from learning through observation to “practicing the law” under the thorough supervision of amazing Partners, Senior Associates and other Associates at Templars. Interestingly, I am still under pupilage because one never stops learning as a lawyer, even after becoming a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
To avoid the mistake of repeating what many have said about pupilage, I will only emphasis that pupilage is essential in the process of transformation from a law student to a legal practitioner.
Challenges as a young lawyer
To be candid, I have been having it good since my call to bar in 2017 because I started practising on a big scale at Templars.
My basic challenge was simply in the progression of transforming from a law student to a lawyer, especially being an associate in Templars, where we do complex but interesting legal works.
However, from constant discussions with some of my colleagues, I can relate with some of the challenges facing young lawyers in Nigeria and it is pathetic. Some of these challenges include inadequate remuneration, toxic work environment, and denial of professional development.
It is therefore imperative for the seniors at the Bar and the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association to find lasting solutions to the challenges facing young lawyers in Nigeria, bearing in mind that young lawyers are the future of the legal profession.
Law school experience
My experience at the Nigerian Law School (NLS) is fundamentally different from that of my undergraduate studies. Training (academic and non-academic activities) is essentially practical, as opposed to the substantially theoretical training at my undergraduate studies.
The NLS exposed me to the law in practice through the Court and law firm attachments.
As opposed to the widely held opinion that the NLS is difficult, it is not. The only challenge I had, which I assume my colleagues also experienced, was that I had too much to read within a short period of time.
In case the Council of Legal Education is not aware, the challenge I just highlighted is not intellectually healthy and an urgent reform is needed in this regard.
If I may suggest, law school should be made a two years academic and practical training for aspiring lawyers, while the years spent at the University be reduced to four years.
Notwithstanding the challenge earlier mentioned, I had amazing lecturers at the NLS, Kano Campus, who took their time to demystify complex legal topics, which made it easy for me to navigate the murky waters of the NLS.
This is a double-barrelled question and it is best answered disjunctively. To start with, the independence of the judiciary means in practical terms, the ability of the judiciary to discharge its functions without any interference from other arms of government. Unfortunately the Nigerian Judiciary, as presently constituted, is not 100% independent and the reason is obvious.
The Constitution in Sections 231, 238, 250 and other relevant sections, subjects the appointment and removal of Judges, especially the Heads of Courts such as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of the Court of Appeal etc, to the whims and caprices of the Executive and the Legislature.
Independence of the judiciary can only be a daydream in this kind of structure, and recent happenings in Nigeria can attest to this fact.
As a way out, I propose that the relevant sections of the Constitution be amended, such that the appointment and removal of judges at any levels is made an exclusive privilege of the National Judicial Council (NJC) working in collaboration with the Federal and State Judicial Service Commissions, without any input from the Executive and Legislature.
We can take a cue from the structure created for the elevation of deserving lawyers to the coveted rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) by the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee, in which both the Executive and the legislature have no input whatsoever.
Regarding the justice delivery system, this is unacceptably slow and far from being satisfactory. Although, some Judges are very efficient, their efficiency is constantly being undermined by the lack of modern technologies, inadequate personnel or conducive court room environments etc. It is very annoying that majority of our Judges still write in longhand despite the availability of amazing technologies in this 21st century.
The judiciary is generally regarded as the bulwark of the common man. Unfortunately, the sorry state of our justice delivery system has eroded most people’s confidence in the system.
May I also mention that priority should be given to the training of Judges to keep them abreast of developments in the commercial and information and communication technology world.
I hope to reach the pinnacle of my legal career in actual legal practice and research.
To shed more light to this, I would like to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and a Professor of Law. This is because my ultimate aim is to contribute immensely to legal development, inspire and build the next generation of lawyers.
Shittu: Court, not FG must determine national interest
Mr. Wahab Shittu is a law teacher at the University of Lagos, Akoka. In this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, he speaks on $9.5bn Arbitration award against Nigeria, rule of law, security vote and sundry issues
What do you make of the $9.5 billion judgement secured against Nigeria by a British firm, Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) and the steps taken so far by the Federal Government to upturn the judgement?
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has already commenced investigations into the award of the contract. A number of persons linked to the contract have equally been invited.
The EFCC discovered during investigations that the contract was signed by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, the late Mr. Rilwan Lukman on behalf of the Federal Government. The contract signing was witnessed by one, Grace Taiga, a Director in the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
It was also discovered during investigations that under the terms of the contract, the Federal Government was to supply gas to P&ID through some petroleum companies for processing.
Whereas, the P&ID also undertook that it has secured a land in Calabar, Cross River State to construct a facility to process the gas.
This, however, turned out to be a false presentation on the part of P&ID as was revealed by checks at the Cross River State Ministry of Lands. It was found out that although there was intent for a piece of land to be allocated to P&ID based on payment of a certain fee, the said fee was never paid, the consequence of which the land was revoked and there was no allocation to P&ID.
This was contrary to representation of the company which led to the signing of the contract. So, it could be seen that right from inception the contract was laced with fraud.
It was also found out that P&ID has a subsidiary in Nigeria and payments exchanged hands between the two firms and certain officials of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
As a result of such underhand dealings, the contract was not brought before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for deliberations and approval. Consequently, the contract did not pass through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation as expected.
It was also found out that the Certificate of No Objection was never issued by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) because the contract was never referred to it. Investigations also revealed that the local component of P&ID was in default of N10 million in tax evasion.
All of these facts among others were admitted by the representative of P&ID in a statement. These are facts that have been brought before the court by the EFCC and admitted as exhibits.
I hope you are also aware that as we speak, the activities of the local component of P&ID have been wound-up by the court, while its property were also forfeited to the Federal Government.
Don’t you think the Federal Government has tarried too long in acting on this issue?
Well, I wouldn’t want to blame the government because necessary agencies that would have been sensitized about the contract in the first place were sidetracked. Nevertheless, it’s not too late for things to be turned around.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has accused the Buhari-led administration of persistent interference with operations of the nation’s judiciary and violation of rule of law, particularly in disobeying court orders. What is your take on this?
I think we should be very careful. Very careful in the sense that democracy that is being practiced globally is founded on constitutionalism, respect for the rule of law, respect for due process, respect for fundamental rights, respect for transparency and accountability as well as good governance.
These are acknowledged parameters worldwide for defining the essence of democracy and so Nigeria cannot be an exception. The point must be taken that there is no way democracy can be successfully practiced in Nigeria without respect for the rule of law and independence of judiciary.
When we are talking about the independence of the judiciary, it is also dependent on a number of factors. It is also for the judiciary to assert itself. When court orders are made, they must be obeyed and if they are not obeyed, it portends dangerous precedence and a descent to anarchy.
That’s the way it is. There is nothing to justify lack of obedience to court orders by any government. But, we must also look at it that if a particular order is disobeyed, what are the options available to remedy the situation?
Of course, an appeal can be lodged. Enforcement can also be taken up to the Supreme Court. Lawyers, who are involved in cases also have a duty to ensure that orders of court remain sacred and they are treated as such.
The Attorney-General of the Federation who is the Chief Law Officer of the Federation also has a duty to ensure that court orders are obeyed. We operate a democracy where there must be respect for the rule of law.
Besides, I will not want us to zero everything to the attitude of this government alone but to the attitude of successive government. It is not only in this government that you found incidents of disobedience to court orders. It has been pervasive and it must stop. The fact that the CJN has come out frontally to decry the situation is sufficient wake up.
Beyond that, all the stakeholders in the justice delivery system must also ensure that the trend does not continue. The CJN has already read the riot act and made a frontal pronouncement.
Besides, there is no doubt that national interest consideration is very important, but who defines national interest? National interest calculations cannot be defined by the president. It ought to be determined by the court. It is the court as the guardian of our democratic tradition that will ensure a delicate balance between respect for fundamental rights and national security interest.
So, I think where the ruling elite seem to have missed it is to believe that they alone are the guardian of national interest. This is not so. In fact, the chief custodian or guardian of national interest is the judiciary. It is the court that should make pronouncement regarding the justification of an action based on national interest calculations.
I don’t think the executive should assume the role of the Judiciary in making pronouncement about national internet calculations. Even, the Constitution envisages the significance of national interest.
How do you think the judiciary can assert itself?
The judiciary can assert itself by affirmative pronouncements. Anyone who disobeys court orders must be brought to justice. No matter how big an individual think he is, the law is bigger. That’s the principle. There’s nobody who is above the law.
So, I will urge this administration to respect the rule of law. This is the only thing that will make the quest for good governance a reality.
Do you agree with state governors that security vote is constitutional and should not be scrapped?
My view is that all funds that belongs to the state must be accounted for. This is because they are collective commonwealth. If funds were spent in the quest for security, those funds are spent legitimately, but we want to know the particulars of the security concerns and the heads of expenditure.
The expenditure for security must be audited. This is part of the quest for transparency and accountability, which is the hallmark of democratic tradition. I think we can achieve all these through constitutional amendment and the advocacy for this is a continuous one. We might need to tinker with the aspect of the Constitution that deals with security vote, particularly, in the face of growing concern for accountability.
We should not have a docile legislature that takes liberty in awarding huge resources to itself. We should have a proactive legislature that legislates on good governance of the country on all parameters.
Security vote cannot be scrapped outrightly because the issue of security globally is not a cheap thing. But, we must be concerned about how those funds for security were spent.
Like Dasuki, El-Zakzaky, like Sowore
‘FG’s penchant for disobeying court orders’ll breed anarchy’
The resolve of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, to henceforth ensure strict observance of the rule of law should serve as a wakeup call for the government of President Muhammadu Buhari which has continued with the burden of flagrant disobedience to court orders. AKEEM NAFIU writes
emocracy that is being practiced globally is founded on constitutionalism and the respect for the rule of law. It is therefore imperative that every democratic government should do away with an act that can trample on citizens’ fundamental rights and make nonsense of the rule of law.
It was in this light that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, has expressed his resolve not to condone any act of disrespect for the rule of law.
The CJN bared his mind at the special session to mark the beginning of the 2019/2020 legal year where 38 distinguished lawyers, who were conferred with the title of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), were sworn in.
He said: “The rule of law must be observed in all our dealings and we must impress it on governments at all levels to actively toe the path.
“The right of every citizen against any form of oppression and impunity must be jealously guarded and protected with the legal tools at our disposal. All binding court orders must be obeyed.
“Nobody, irrespective of his or her position, will be allowed to toy with court judgements.
“As we all know, flagrant disobedience of court orders or non-compliance with judicial orders is a direct invitation to anarchy in the society.
“Such acts are completely antithetical to the rule of law in a democratic environment, and will not be tolerated under my watch as Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“We must work together to make Nigeria one of the frontline countries that observe the rule of law and rights of the citizens in all ramifications.”
The CJN’s speech is coming amidst concerns over the persistent failure of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to observe the rule of law, particularly as it relates to obeying a series of orders handed down by courts of the land.
President Muhammadu Buhari had given a tacit approval for his government’s penchant for disobeying court orders when he declared that the rule of law must be subjected to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest.
This, he said while speaking at the 2018 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) held in Abuja.
The president was later echoed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) while appearing before the Senate on 27th July, 2019.
He said Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) made provisions for public interest to take preference to private interest.
According to him, the high-profile individuals that have remained in detention were there in public interest.
“I concede that a Minister of Justice and Attorney-General as stipulated by Sections 36, 37 and 39 of the Constitution, is supposed to protect the rights of any citizen from being violated even by the state, but where such rights conflict with public interest, the latter overrides the former.
“The Office of the AGF has exclusive responsibility to uphold the public interest above personal interest of anybody,” Malami said.
Cases of FG’s flagrant disobedience to court orders
The most recent of cases of Federal Government’s disobedience to court orders is the one involving the convener of #RevolutionNow protest and former presidential candidate, Mr. Omoyele Sowore.
Prior to his arraignment over an alleged treason and corruption, a court order directing his immediate release was flouted by the Department of State Services (DSS).
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja had on 24th September, 2019, granted bail to Sowore, who has been arrested and kept in the custody of the DSS since 3rd August, 2019 on an allegation of calling for “revolution” through the protest scheduled for 5th August, 2019.
The judge had dismissed DSS’ objection in granting him bail with the sole condition that he must deposit his passport in the registry of the court. He also ordered that Sowore should be released to his lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN).
However, effort by Sowore’s lawyer to get him out of detention were said to have been rebuffed by the DSS.
Consequently, contempt proceedings were commenced against the Director-General of the Department of State Service, Yusuf Bichi, for allegedly disobeying the court order.
Amidst all these, Sowore was on 30th September, 2019, arraigned before another judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of a Federal High Court in Abuja on charges of treasonable felony, cybercrime offences and money laundering filed by the AGF’s office.
He was arraigned alongside Olawale Adebayo Bakare (aka Mandate).
Following a plea of not guilty denial by the duo, the judge admitted Sowore to bail in the sum of N100 million with two sureties in like sum, while his co-defendant was also granted bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety in like sum.
Aside restraining the defendants from addressing any rally pending the conclusion of their trial, Justice Ojukwu also barred them from travelling out of the country during their trial. The duo had remained in DSS’ custody pending perfection of their bail.
It is left to be seen whether the DSS will abide by the order of court this time around.
Another case on the list of orders of court being disobeyed by the Buhari’s government is the one involving the immediate past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (Rtd).
The former NSA was arrested on 29th December, 2015 by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) shortly after he was released from Kuje Prison in Abuja on meeting the bail conditions imposed on him by the courts where he has been standing trial on charges of criminal diversion, money laundering and illegal possession of firearms.
He was granted bail by two Federal High Courts in Abuja as well as the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, but the Federal Government has since refused to comply with the orders which admitted him to bail pending trial.
The Federal Government also disobeyed court orders directing the release of the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zainab.
Prior to alleged murder charge on the duo by the Kaduna State Government in May 2018, the couple were held in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) since December 2015 without charge.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a Federal High Court in Abuja on 2nd December, 2016, delivered a judgement directing the DSS to release the couple.
The order was never obeyed while the couple’s bail application remained pending before the court until they were charged for murder.
An order made by the Federal High Court in Abuja directing the police to unseal the headquarters of a non-governmental organisation, Peace Corps of Nigeria, was also disobeyed by the government under President Buhari’s watch.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole recently elevated to the Court of Appeal, had in a judgement delivered on 9th November, 2017, awarded N12.5 million in damages in favour of Peace Corps, its National Commandant, Dickson Akor, and 48 other members over an unlawful invasion of their headquarters in Abuja on 28th February, 2017.
Delivering judgement in the fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by the 50 persons, the judge ordered the police to immediately unseal Peace Corps’ headquarters at 57, Iya Abubakar Crescent, Off Alex Ekwueme Way, Opposite Jabi Lake, Jabi, Abuja.
Ruling on Consolidated debts
The Federal Government also failed to obey a court judgment directing it to set overall limits for the “amounts of consolidated debts” of the nation’s federal, state and local governments.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja had on 20th February, 2018 held that it was mandatory for the government to set the debt limits as provided for by Section 42(1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
The judge specifically ordered President Buhari, the erstwhile Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, and the AGF, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to set the debt limits and be approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives within 90 days.
The order was never obeyed within the 90 days window.
Ruling on recovered stolen funds
The Federal Government is also yet to obey a court judgment delivered by Justice Ibrahim Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos (now a Justice of the Court of Appeal), ordering it to release details of the receipt and spending of all the recovered stolen funds since the return of democracy in 1999.
The judgment was delivered on March 24, 2016 sequel to a Freedom of Information suit by a rights organization, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
Ruling on power contracts
The Federal Government is also yet to comply with a judgement delivered on 29th July, 2019 by Justice Chuka Obiozor of a Federal High Court in Lagos, compelling the immediate release of details of payments to all defaulting and allegedly corrupt electricity contractors and companies since 1999.
Delivering judgement in the FOI suit filed by SERAP against the Federal Government and former Minister of Power, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Justice Obiozor granted the following reliefs:
“A declaration is hereby made that the failure and/or refusal of the respondent [Federal Government/Ministry of Power] to provide SERAP with documents and information containing the specific names and details of contractors and companies that have been engaged in the power sector by successive governments since 1999, details, of specific projects and the amounts that have been paid to the contractors and companies, details on the level of implementation of electricity projects and their specific locations across the country, and failure to widely publish it on a dedicated website, any of such information, amounts to a breach of the obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2011
“A declaration is hereby made that the failure and/or refusal of the Respondent [Federal Government/Ministry of Power] to provide SERAP with specific documents and information containing the specific names and details of contractors and companies that allegedly collected money for electricity projects from successive governments since 1999 but failed to execute any of such projects, and failure to widely publish it on a dedicated website, any of such information, amounts to a breach of the respondent’s responsibility/obligation under the Freedom of Information Act 2011
“An order of mandamus is made directing and compelling the respondent [Federal Government/Ministry of Power] to urgently compile and make available to SERAP, documents and information containing the specific names and details of contactors and companies that have been engaged in the power sector by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999 to date, details of specific projects and the amounts that have been paid to the contracts and companies, details on the level of implementation of electricity projects and their specific locations across the country and to publish widely including on a dedicated website, any of such information
“An order of mandamus is made directing and compelling the Respondent [Federal Government/Ministry of Power] to urgently compile and make available to SERAP documents and information containing the specific names and details of contactors and companies that allegedly collected money for electricity projects from successive governments since 1999 but failed to execute any projects”.
Apparently miffed, some senior lawyers have also been speaking on the need for government to ensure strict observance of the rule of law. The lawyers while speaking on the issue at the weekend also condemned Buhari administration’s penchant for disobeying court orders, describing it as nothing but an invitation to anarchy.
They, however, commended the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, over his resolve not to condone any violation of the rule of law.
Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, emphasized the need for government to ensure strict compliance with the rule of law.
He said: “Most of us are really concerned about the level of disobedience to court orders in this country. The fact is that somebody has to stand up against this anomaly.
“It is unfortunate that court orders are being disobeyed and one thing that God has denied those who are disobeying court orders today is that they will not be able to stop a repeat of similar experience against them tomorrow.
“That is why at all times we must always keep to the rule of law. It can apply to anyone at any point in time. You can’t imagine that even the Supreme Court’s pronouncements are being disobeyed in Nigeria. It is really very unfortunate.”
Another member of the Inner Bar, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), also expressed his concern about government’s persistent violation of the rule of law.
“When you look at the catalogue of disobedience to court orders that has been a feature of this administration, it is something that worries me. If you have a case against somebody, you took him to court and the person was granted bail, why was the person not freed on bail? Why should the executive sit on appeal over a court decision to grant bail or not to grant bail?” he asked.
Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dr. Biodun Layonu asked the CJN to do all within his power to ensure that court orders were henceforth obeyed by government.
He said: “The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, has expressed his readiness to ensure that court orders are no longer disobeyed by government.
“It is very realistic and long overdue. No one is above the law including all arms of government and if the judiciary can ensure enforcement of the law against its own members in appropriate circumstances, who then is exempt?”
A former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Ubani, said he was concerned that government’s flagrant disobedience to court orders was becoming legendary and nauseating.
Ubani said: “Post 2nd World War nations take the issue of respect to rule of law and obedience to court orders very seriously. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights are all products of post second war consensus amongst nations.
“Countries are religiously evaluated strictly on observance of these ethics of respect to individual freedoms like that of expression.
“I cannot believe that in this 21st century, a country like Nigeria, will still shamelessly snub court orders and wants to be a member of a civilized world. The flagrant disobedience to court orders is becoming legendary and nauseating. What is more frightening is that an Attorney General of the Federation is justifying this impunity.”
To a law teacher, Mr. Wahab Shittu, democracy would not be successfully practiced without respect for the rule of law, particularly obedience to court orders.
He said: “Democracy that is being practiced globally is founded on constitutionalism, respect for the rule of law, respect for due process, respect for fundamental rights, respect for transparency and accountability as well as good governance.
“These are acknowledged parameters worldwide for defining the essence of democracy and so Nigeria cannot be an exception. The point must be taken that there is no way democracy can be successfully practiced in Nigeria without respect for the rule of law and independence of judiciary.
“When we are talking about the independence of the judiciary, it is also dependent on a number of factors. It is also for the judiciary to assert itself. When court orders are made, they must be obeyed and if they are not obeyed, it portends dangerous precedence.
“That’s the way it is. There is nothing to justify lack of obedience to court orders by any government. But, we must also look at it that if a particular order is disobeyed, what are the options available to remedy the situation?
“Of course, an appeal can be lodged; enforcement can also be taken up to the Supreme Court. Lawyers, who are involved in cases, also have a duty to ensure that orders of court remain sacred and they are treated as such.
“The Attorney-General of the Federation who is the Chief Law Officer of the Federation also has a duty to ensure that court orders are obeyed.
“Besides, I will not want us to zero everything to the attitude of this government alone but to the attitude of successive government. It is not only in this government that you found incidents of disobedience to court orders. It has been pervasive and it must stop. The fact that the CJN has come out frontally to decry the situation is sufficient wake up.
“Beyond that, all the stakeholders in the justice delivery system must also ensure that the trend does not continue. The CJN has already read the riot act and made a frontal pronouncement.”
‘We need to review our tax law to rejuvenate economy’
Onyekwelu Chinyere Ogochukwu is an indegene of Agulu in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State. Onyekwelu was called to Bar on 13th December, 2017. Ogochukwu shares her law journey with John Chikezie
My name is Onyekwelu, Chinyere Ogochukwu. I am from Agulu in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State.
I obtained my First School Leaving Certificate at Holy Cross Primary School Onitsha, Anambra State in 1998. I also attended Ado Girls’ Secondary School Onitsha in 2004.
However, for my tertiary education, I obtained two Bachelor’s degree certificates from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka: (BA(Ed) English Language in 2009 and Law (LLB) in 2016.
I thereafter attended the Nigerian Law School, Kano campus and was called to Bar on 13th December, 2017.
I grew up in a very large family and being the third of five children was quite exciting and challenging at the same time. We fought a lot and also had our good moments. One striking thing about my siblings is that they are always supportive. My parents wanted nothing but the best for us, although it was difficult for me to understand it at first. But I realized that their discipline made me who I am today.
My parents were always ready to use the cane whenever there was a slight misbehavior either from me or any of my siblings. At first, the constant scolding and flogging from my parents affected my attitude and well-being. I was always afraid of interacting with people. In School, I could not participate in some activities I loved, to not ask or answer questions in class and I did not have a lot of friends.
In my early years, I struggled academically, especially with my grades because of the constant reminder from my friends of how small and young I was although this did not deter me and the speed at which the subjects were taught in school.
However, my attitude towards my studies took a new turn in my Junior Secondary School days when I realized that I had interpreted my parents’ method of discipline wrongly. With a new mindset that the flogging and scolding were not meant to reduce my self-esteem, but rather to make me a better person.
I decided to come out of my shell, explore my abilities and sharpen some of my skills. I joined some groups in school and in the church, where I had the opportunity to confront my fright for public speaking and stage performance. I took up catering and decorating classes, and made more friends. At this point, I learnt to love and appreciate my parents more.
I would say that, at first, I had so much admiration for lawyers each time I see them on TV, particularly their mode of dressing and the level of respect accorded to them in the society. But what fueled my passion for law was the burning desire to help people in helpless situations; the urge to speak up against the ills in the society and the vast opportunity the profession accords.
I have not really been able to pin down my specific area of interest in the Law. But anyway, I love Tax law, Intellectual property law and Maritime Law although these are not novel areas of law. I love these areas of law because I always like venturing into fields that are challenging and make me stretch my potential beyond the known limit.
My love for intellectual property was born out of the fact that I grew up in an environment where piracy is the order of the day and little or no credit is given to people’s intellectual effort. Then for taxation, I believe that the tax system in Nigeria needs to be reviewed.
Law School experience
I would say that Law school taught me consistency, diligence, time management, attention to detail and multitasking. My participation in discussion groups taught me how to be a better team player. The law school curriculum actually stretched me beyond my already known limit compared to law school, and a just when I was complaining about the limited time, I realized that I had lot of time at the university. The pressure was so much.
Leaving the lecture hall by 6p.m., and sometimes 7p.m. left me little or no time for frivolities because with the little time left, I would have to read what was taught in class and also prepare for the next day’s lecture.
I had to read more than I had ever done because the volume of books to be read, laws and procedures to be learnt were so much.
In spite of the kind of love I had for sleeping, I had to sleep less in order to read more. I made it a point of duty to always ask questions, even the ones that seemed irrelevant whenever I am confused about a particular topic.
I also attempted questions whenever I have an idea of what the answer would be. My class participation in law school earned me the name “Answeree.” I actually gave myself a grade limit and I worked towards it. I do not have any regrets even though the outcome was not what I expected. I love challenging activities and challenging moments because they make me discover a part of me I didn’t know about. And I must say that law school has been one of the challenging moments filled with challenging activities I have experienced so far.
Judiciary and its independence
I cannot say that the Nigerian judicial system is perfect neither can I say the judiciary is absolutely independent. Judicial officers ought to be able to try cases and dispense justice without fear of anyone or favour.
However, in recent times, there is a neglect of the rule of law, disobedience to court orders and the encroachment of the executive arm of government into the affairs of the judiciary and this has to an extent defeated the aim of the concept.
In the university, I think that apart from the academic activities, more attention should be given to internships and students participation in mooting activities because that is like the laboratory of law students.
In law school, I would like the lecture time on some of the campuses to be reduced in order to give students adequate time to rest and assimilate what they are being taught before further studies. In addition, I think I would also like the grading system to be reviewed.
I would say that despite the provisions of the law that a person cannot be detained for a period longer than the maximum period of imprisonment prescribed for the offence committed, indefinite pre-trial detention has been the “norm.” There is no time span within which the trial of the prisoners on remand must be concluded and this makes some of them stay longer in prisons and sometimes even more than the number of years they would have spent if they were convicted of the offence. The concept of plea bargain can help decongest the prisons since our prosecution system is adversarial in nature and takes lots of time; it saves time and cost. The time and money spent in police investigation and prolonged trials can be reduced.
However, although I agree that plea bargain can be used as a tool for prison decongestion in Nigeria, I must emphasize the fact that caution must be applied because its abuse will definitely pull our criminal justice system to the mud.
I would love to be a professor of Law and Senior Advocate. I have passion for teaching. I want to also attain the highest rank in the profession with my contributions to the profession.
‘Plea bargain not enough to decongest prisons’
Farouk Ayorinsola Obisanya is an indigene of Waterside Local Government, Ogun State. Obisanya attended Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye for his LL.B and was called to Bar on 13th December, 2017. He told JOHN CHIKEZIE how his law journey began
My name is Farouk Obisanya and I am a lawyer from Ogun State.
My father, Obisanya, is from Ogun Waterside Local Government while my mother, Akindiya, hails from Abeokuta North Local Government. In 2016, I obtained my first degree at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye in Ogun State.
Thereafter, I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Kano Campus, for the mandatory practical training to becoming a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. I was called to the Nigerian Bar on 13th December, 2017.
Currently, I practise law at Iyiola Oyedepo & Co., volunteer at Legal Magnates International Foundation, and contribute passionately to community-development initiatives.
The story of “why law” is a long one arising from events. But, I’ll give a snippet. Due to circumstances surrounding my early years in life, I seldom watch television. So, at a nursery stage precisely, I began reading the newspapers; notably The Punch and the Tribune daily, and digesting details that I could understand.
Thus, I became a walking “current affairs” that throughout my secondary school education, people will place bet on me in a challenge against anothe
However, on 23rd December, 2001, my father had barely stepped out of his car when he said in Yoruba “they have killed Bola Ige.” I was broken because I felt the sharp pain of losing someone I know and admired at such age. I think I cried. Bola Ige was someone I knew through the newspapers and news magazines.
He was the then Attorney-General of the Federation.
Apart from him, I read and was conversant with the contributions of individuals such as Sir Olaniwun Ajayi (d. 2016), Pa Ayo Adebanjo, and Senator Abraham Adesanya (d. 2008). All these persons studied and practiced law.
I still hold them in high esteem. So, my interests in national issues grew. In all of these, I didn’t accept that I should study law.
Years after, water passed under the bridge. Life happened. But sometimes, no matter how you run away from some things, somehow, you are drawn back. This I ascribe to divinity leading me to the purpose I discovered, but didn’t have a clear picture of, at that time.
After thinking I would end up in the Sciences class but resumed in Commercial in Senior Secondary School 1 and transferred, without telling any immediate relative, to Art. This decision actually took place after I had a discussion with my father.
So, I can say my interest in national issues was the first pointer to Law.
First court appearance and memorable experience
My first appearance in court was exhilarating. I had prepared the night before and was set not to be thrown off my feet. Indisputably, my participation in moot trials was helpful and had shaped my confidence.
However, I would prefer to say I have memorable days that are unforgettable either for good reasons or otherwise. At the moment, what comes to mind is the day of Call. It came with joy, mixed with apprehension but ended happily. Either of my parents would have missed sitting in the International Conference Centre to see their young son match to the front for the tradition. I’m grateful that the three of us had direct goose-bumps and not those that emanate from listening to stories of events.
I have keen interest in Commercial Law, Employment Law, Real Estate, Tax Law, and a deep growing interest in International Law. These areas are in no particular order.
It has been an interesting and progressive journey, albeit with some unpleasant periods. Nonetheless, I do not gloat over spilled milk. That said, the court system makes litigation, as a method of dispute resolution, boring. The delays and bottlenecks hindering timely adjudication are irksome. I like going to court but detest wasting time on things that humans have control over. The judicial system and our approach to litigation need to get better. We can’t continue in this manner.
Independence of judiciary
The proper functionality of the judiciary is tied to its independence. Apparently, the system as it is, does not allow the independence toga to be worn by the judiciary. And when a judiciary cannot boast of complete independence, problems arise. Like I stated earlier, it needs to get better.
I’ll mention a few, starting with redesigning the pyramidal system of our courts that are populated with litigious cases i.e. High Courts to Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. For appeals arising from decisions made in 36 judicial divisions of Federal High Court and National Industrial Court respectively, and those of the States’ High Court, there are only 72 Court of Appeal Divisions to handle them and one Supreme Court hearing appeals from 72 divisions of appellate courts. Yet, the Supreme Court with a maximum number of 21 Justices adopts a priority approach of hearing cases. Going forward, each State can have its own Court of Appeal. Also, the Court of Appeal should be the apex court in final determination of disputes in some areas of law.
Decongesting the courts, despite the procedural developments recorded by the Lagos State High Court, for instance, it has not given birth to timely conclusion of cases.
120 judges for a state estimated to house about 20 million people aren’t sufficient. Dispute arises everyday. Government should consider building new courtrooms and employing judges or establishing courts for specific subject matters. Also, there should be a timeframe to conclude a suit at the trial court.
It is believed that the court is the last hope of a common man, hence accessing justice shouldn’t be dependent on financial status or social class. If the welfare of the people is the primary aim of the government, nothing stops such government from funding financial incapable citizens to engaging a lawyer of their choice and not be constrained to the available options in the name of pro-bono which doesn’t suit them. This, of course, won’t work in a system where taxes aren’t paid accordingly. So, it’s important the government thinks deeply.
I cannot wholly say it’s a tool for prison decongestion. Looking at the prisons, they are more occupied with detainees awaiting trial that have neither been charged to court nor perfected the bail conditions which are sometimes unnecessarily stringent.
We should also look at the common offences alleged to have been committed by these persons.
Is plea bargain applicable to these offences e.g. murder, manslaughter, rape, cultism, armed robbery?
I have not read cases of this nature with plea bargain being applied. If there’s any judicial authority, I look forward to reading it.
So far, the concept has fitted perfectly in money related offences. Then I ask, are persons commonly charged with these offences in the regular prisons; maybe internet fraudsters. I have visited the prisons and listened to accused persons. Arising from such visits, I still cannot fathom the applicability of plea bargain to their offences.
Nonetheless, if plea bargain goes beyond being an option open only to celebrity accused persons, perhaps, prisons may record some decongestion. At the same time, I still do not see it as a major tool for prison decongestion.
Adedipe: FG’s proscription of IMN is executive lawlessness
Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) is a Bencher. In this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, he speaks on xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, separation of office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, rule of law and sundry issues
Can South Africa be sued for damages in view of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians?
Nigeria government can institute legal action against the South African government and target their assets for the damages done to businesses of Nigerians.
It is very wrong for anyone in South Africa to say our people are not entitled to compensation when people are being killed and their property damaged.
It’s quite unfortunate that we are having these kinds of attacks on Nigerians in South Africa. During the apartheid era, Nigeria was a frontline nation in respect of its commitment to the liberation of black South Africans from the grip of the white minority regime.
It is therefore a supreme irony that less than two decades after the end of apartheid, Nigerians would be the target of attacks by these black South Africans for whatever reason. This speaks to lack of knowledge about their own history as well as the unreflective nature of these South Africans.
The economy of South Africans as we read in the papers is in the firm grip of the whites and whatever Nigerians might be doing there will be menial jobs when compared to what these whites are doing. So, to turn on Nigerians and be killing them because of disapprove of their persons is an extreme measure that is barbaric, unfriendly and quite frankly unacceptable.
So far, the Federal Government is adopting an African disposition of being brothers but I think we should take far more serious steps. I believe government can stop these attacks and it is evident that these attackers were encouraged by default by their leaders in South Africa. I think these attackers should be made to pay stiff penalties for their actions.
So, I think it’s an issue that Nigeria needs to take very firm step on. We must not wait for more Nigerians to be killed before we do the needful. In the same vein, I am not in support of any reprisal attacks in Nigeria. This is because most of these businesses are owned by Nigerians; they are only being managed by South Africans
The Federal Government has been having a running battle with the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) since the proscription of the group. Do you think there is any justification for government’s action?
I think, with profound respect, that the proscription of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) by the Federal Government is an abuse of power on the part of the Federal Government.
We need to go back a little to understand how we get to where we are at the moment. This is a religious sect backed by religious ideology. The kind of group requires tact and not force. Now, the sect has face-off with the army and over 300 of their members were allegedly killed and buried in mass grave. That is not only worrisome, but provocative enough.
Therefore, when their leader was captured and kept in detention, it is expected that specific allegation of wrong-doing on his part will be raised by the government and tried in court.
To keep the man indefinitely in detention and to resist the orders of court setting him free on condition is to take the country to a dangerous level of dictatorship.
We are guided and the government is backed by the Constitution. The Constitution expects that there would be cases like these, particularly between citizens and government. The arbiter is the court and it is regrettable that the Attorney General of the Federation will go to the floor of the Senate and said that government has a justification for disobeying court orders.
The AGF’s interpretation of Section 174 of the Constitution is wrong and an embarrassment. The AGF is the Chief Law Officer of the country and he is conferred with constitutional powers to take over cases, institute cases and to consider public interest.
Once the Shi’ites have gone to court and join issues with government, both parties are bound by whatever is the outcome of the action. It is not right and it cannot be right for government to pick and choose which order of court to obey. If the court grants bail to an accused person, government is at liberty to appeal but it is bound to respect the order.
We will be looking for crisis in this country if we are choosing the court’s judgement to obey and the ones to ignore. So, I believed that the error on the part of the government is the crux of what we are currently witnessing.
If you keep a man for about four years in detention, except he has no followers, they will surely engage in protest march to call for his release.
This group stands on a higher moral ground than the Federal Government in the sense that it retains lawyers, went to court and observing due process. It is the government that is refusing to observe due process by refusing to obey a court order.
Now, the problem I see in all these is that when you drive these people underground, the consequences could be dire. My worry is that this government may get away with all it is doing but the consequences may later come and be visited on the succeeding government. That was the lesson from the Boko Haram menace.
When you have a case like this in which the faces and the group are known, engage them. It is cheaper and a measure of strength for government to sit a group down and discuss with it. But for government to say it will not negotiate with them while it is negotiating with Boko Haram, kidnappers and terrorists amounts to double standard. I think it is wrong and I don’t support the proscription.
What can you say about Buhari’s government respect for the rule of law, particularly obedience to court orders?
When you look at the catalogue of disobedience to court orders that is a feature of this administration, it is something that worries me. If you have a case against somebody, you took him to court and the person was granted bail, why was the person not freed on bail? Why should the executive sit on appeal over a court decision to grant bail or not to grant bail?
Do you think separating the offices of the Attorney General of the Federation and that of the Minister of Justice will help us in addressing the excesses of the executive arm of government?
I don’t think so. Let’s start from the beginning because this is what we inherited from our colonial masters. At a time, the Attorney General of United States had to send in his letter of resignation because he told President Trump that the Ministry of Justice cannot be used for political matters. If you look at our Constitution, the office of the Attorney-General is the only ministerial office that is constitutionally created. When someone is to be put in the office, it has to be an individual of intellectual depth with strong moral fibre who could also resist political pressure. But, you will recall that this is Africa and our people have a penchant for doing things the African way. Otherwise, an Attorney General worth his salt should have written to advise the government. The question must however be that, if the boss you are serving does not respect or accept your opinion, what are you still doing in his team? If the essence is to ensure that things are done properly, government should be supported and applauded but far too long in this country, we do things anyhow. Politics and law have mixed so badly under this government to the extent that even when the right thing is to be done, it is very difficult not to read political motive to it. The whole thing is not in our interest as a country. I am sure with time we will get it right. I don’t think the problem is that of having the two offices under one individual.
How do we wriggle out of the leadership problem confronting the country?
Nigeria is in need of somebody that will turn her to a nation because she is still a country. There is a word of difference between a country and a nation. At the moment, Nigeria is a country and not a nation. So, there is a need to make Nigeria a nation and that is why there have been talks about building institutions for us to have shared ideals, ideas and philosophy. At the moment, we do not have a shared Nigeria dream. Besides, people who have ideas hardly vote but those who are less discerning and more emotional go out to vote. There are people that irrespective of the evidence or what happens, once they are with one individual, they stick to him or her. But it is the elite that can think otherwise. In all these, I think the masses need massive education for us to get it right and build a nation as well as institutions. If we do not have an educated population that can see things objectively, we will never get it right. If you check developed nations of the world, they have national ideas and visions. Even, during elections, they make informed choices. These are what we are lacking in this part of the world. More often than not, people have closed minds.
Don’t you think the size of the country is also a contributory factor in the challenges we are facing?
Nigeria is not too large. It’s only that we are not yet a nation. We are not more than America. India is bigger than us. The same thing with Pakistan, Russia is larger than us. This leadership issue is key. We need a leader who is blind to ethnicity, religion, social status and other issues that have largely divided us. Competence comes in here. We should encourage people who are hard-working to continue to be doing so.
Lawyers: Judiciary, bedrock of Nigeria’s democracy
‘Judiciary, bedrock of Nigeria’s democracy’
As Nigeria clocks 59 tomorrow, it is time for lawyers, including Senior Advocates of Nigeria and Doctors of Law to appraise the judiciary and its role in nation building. FOLUSO OGUNMODEDE reports
otwithstanding insecurity bedevilling the country, lawyers agreed at the weekend that but for the judiciary, the nation called Nigeria would have disintegrated and became history as some of those issues which otherwise would have consumed the country were doused by the judiciary.
The judiciary, according to them had not done badly since independence even though it had struggled to extricate itself from allegations of corruption dogging it over the years.
“The judiciary has played significant roles in unifying and stabilizing this troubled nation and if not for the judiciary, of course, the nation would have been in flames,” one said.
“The judiciary regarded as the last hope especially in a situation where many things have not been as well as they should, here and there, has done substantially okay,” another said.
Yet another said, “I don’t think we should give an open cheque to the courts, it is just that on the balance, they have lived up to their billings. Like we always say the last hope of the common man as the final sentinel of democracy, they are the last bus stop because if gold rust what will iron do?”
The lawyers, Emeka Ngige, Yusuf Ali, Wale Adesokan, Mike Ozekhome , Mr. Emeka Okpoko, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria and Drs Robert Agbange, Oluwole Adeleke, Mr. Adesina Adegbite and Adetokunbo Mumuni although differed in their appraisal of the third arm of government in the last 59 years, they said the judiciary had remained the bedrock of Nigeria’s democracy.
In the past 57 years of the judiciary, by a way of percentage, it has scored just 45% and the 45% was scored during the time of Justices Oputa, Kayode Esho, Nnaemeka Agu. These were the golden periods of the Nigerian judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court. But regarding this present age, a lot needs to be done because the common man has zero faith in the judiciary. Even the 45% score is not even a pass mark to begin with. The judiciary still has a long way to go.
People resort to other alternative means of resolving their differences- like the police, army or native doctors. So, the judiciary needs to do more to inspire confidence especially in the issue of delays in justice system.
The issue of delays is one of the factors that discourage a lot of people from approaching the judiciary. When most people realise that an issue that requires an urgent resolution would be treated for more than five to eight years, they would surely seek other means aside the judiciary.
The judiciary, basically, is a Nigerian institution which has also passed through so many travails. It has also had its apogee and at least, accrued certain height of achievements. On an average of a hundred per cent, the judiciary would still score higher than the other two arms of government in the past 59 years.
I would still rate the judiciary, despite the challenges it has faced, at a minimum of 70% compared to the other arms of government. I believe that the judiciary is not yet at its El Dorado. Judiciary as a Nigerian institution has stood the test of time; it has seen Nigeria through times of glory and despair; progress and retardation.
It ushered in the Nigerian independence and from 1960 to1966, it played a vital role as the third arm of government in a democratic setting. From 1966 to 1975 it operated under the dark rules of the military regime and however proved itself as an enduring institution.
Hence, between 1979 and 1983, it also played a major role when another epoch of democratic governance emerged. However, May 1999 was one of the years the judiciary performed its best in stabilising the country even in the face of malicious military rule and brutal military dictatorship,
And since 1999, the judiciary has served as a strong strategic factor in our democracy.”
Examples of these bound everywhere. It is very clear that the judiciary is the only arm of government that was able to sanction its members through its strong and credible internal cleansing mechanism. The Nigeria judiciary has helped the nation’s polity to stabilise at every point in time. It has contributed in no mean measure to our national development and stability. It has stood its ground in the face of military tyranny and oppression. It has demonstrated its courage in the face of the civilian’s rascality. It has shown that Nigerians, (Judges) from all indices can rub shoulders with any other members, (Judges) in any part of the world.
“Nigerian judiciary is so strong that we have been exporting our judges, where necessary and needed. It was from the same Nigerian judiciary that we produced judges, who served in different part of the Africa sub-region. It was the same Nigerian judiciary that produced the likes of Justice Teslim Elias, Prince Bola Ajibola of this world, who became a judge in Hague, one of the strongest arms of the United Nations.
The story of the Nigerian judiciary is from glory to glory. When we were under the military in 1970-71, it was the same judiciary that called the military government to order in the case of Lakanmi vs the AGF.
In 1979, it was the judgment of the court that sent the military junta away. Also, when the Ibrahim Babangida regime embarked on its contraption, it was the judiciary that saved the situation and resolved knotty issues.
Though, eventually, the government came back to the Abacha junta, even at that, the court did not keep silent in the face of Abacha’s tyranny. When the civilians came into power again, it was the court that checkmated the excesses of the political office holders. This was seen in Ladoja’s case, where the court reversed the illegality carried out by the legislative arms of government in Oyo State. Giving all these and comparing the judiciary with the other two arms of governments, one would not but hail the nation’s judiciary for its courage and steadfastness.
“Even, in the fight against corruption in Nigeria, the judiciary has performed its best in the fight against corrupt practices and reduced the scourge of corruption. So, to every rightful thinking person, Nigerian judiciary, no doubt has done well.”
It has been buffeted from all sides; assailed by inglorious politicians who lost their electoral legal battles in court; bled internally by some irredeemably corrupt judicial elements; mocked by a non-cooperating executive that denies it of much needed funds, and ridiculed by a legislature that makes laws for everything, except for the peace, order and good government of Nigeria.
“Alexander Halmiton was right when he theorised that the judiciary is the weakest arm of government as it has neither pursed nor armed to effect its decisions.
“In spite of these mountainous challenges, the Nigerian judiciary can unarguably be said to have fared better than the other two arms of government – the legislature and the executive. It has held its head high above murky waters, refusing to be cowed or vanquished by the two other more powerful sister arms of government. It has continued to serve as the bulwark against tyranny of the vociferous minority and oppression by the all-conquering majority.
“Even under autocratic military dictatorship, the judiciary refused to blow muted trumpets, in spite of the ubiquitous blaring sirens of power and sheer repressive jack-bootism.
“The Nigerian Judiciary sided with the common man and woman, delivering scathing and at times decisive judgments against repressive Heads of State and self-styled Military Presidents. In Ojukwu vs Governor of Lagos State (1986) 1 NWLR (part 18), for example, both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court described the action of the Lagos State Government in forcibly ejecting Ojukwu from his residence in Ikoyi, Lagos whilst his suit against the state government was still pending, live and extant, as amounting to “executive lawlessness.
“In Nasiru Bello vs. Attorney-General of Oyo State (1986) 2 NSCC 1257, the apex court condemned the Oyo State Government for executing a convicted armed robber whose appeal was still pending before the court. The revered late Justice Aniagolu bemoaned this dastardly act, thus: “This is the first case in this country, of which I am aware, in which a legitimate government of this country – past or present, colonial, or indigenous – hastily and illegally snuffed off the life of an appellant whose appeal had vested and was in being, with no order of court upon the appeal, and with a reckless disregard for the life and liberty of the subject and the principles of the rule of law. The brutal incident has bespattered the face of the Oyo State Government with the paint brush of shame.
In Nemi vs. A-G, Lagos State (1996) 6 NWLR, 42, at 55, the Court of Appeal innovatively held that notwithstanding that a convict was on death row, he was still entitled to challenge his torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, arising from the prolonged delay in executing him.
Thus, the Nigerian judiciary affirmed the fundamental rights of even a convict not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment because every minute of being left on the death row means installment torture and indescribable psychological trauma.
It is true that there have been isolated cases of bad eggs within the judiciary, in terms of corruption, bribery, compromise of cases, et al. yes, just like in every 12, there must be a Judas Iscariot.
Such isolated cases have not only been promptly dealt with by the National Judicial Council (NJC); they have also not diminished or dimmed the good work of a vast majority of hardworking judges who have shown exceptional courage, daring bravado, and activist orientation in handing down judgements that have deepened democracy, promoted good governance, protected civil rights and liberties, shielded the rule of law from assault and fought corruption in governance.
“The lofty and far reaching recommendations of my Committee on Law, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Reforms at the last National Conference, if adopted and enshrined in a brand new constitution to be approved and adopted by the Nigerian people in a popular referendum or plebiscite, will go a long way in empowering the judiciary and bestowing on it the much needed independence and autonomy.”
In most trying times for the nation’s judiciary in the annals of our existence as a country even in the heat of the military era and their totalitarian dictatorship, the nation’s judiciary never experienced this much. A lot of surprises here and there and sometimes, the judiciary represents itself well but sometimes a lot more is desired.
The Nigerian judiciary has come of age, evolved, grown and developed. It has risen to the challenges of modern Nigeria. It has stabilized the polity. The judiciary represents the anchor of hope in a ‘fantastically’ corrupt nation. Happily, the judiciary is reinventing, repositioning itself and also purging itself of its few bad eggs. Kudos to the Nigerian judiciary as Nigeria clocks 59.
Nigeria Judiciary is indeed one of the strongest you can think of across the continent of Africa. Our judiciary is no doubt the busiest on the continent and among the busiest across the world. With this background, one can safely salute the Nigerian Judiciary for withstanding the myriad of hurdles which had militated against its effectiveness over the years.
In other words, despite the heavy workloads and the harsh working environment, the Nigerian judiciary had over the years given good account of itself.
We must, however, not fail to state that the golden era of the Nigerian judiciary is long gone. Nigerian judiciary in the days of Kayode Eso JSC, Chukwudifu Oputa JSC, Irikefe JSC, all of blessed memories rated among the best in the world.
Despite serving under military dictatorship, they were courageous and extremely competent. They never spared the military and they dared the demagogues through their several commendable-in-depth judgements. To me, that courage seems to be lacking these days in the judiciary.
I think our judiciary needs to be more courageous and resist any manner of intimidation or enticement from the government.
Above all, our judiciary has grown and developed tremendously in our 59 years of existence as an independent nation. We, however, need to go beyond the analog and move into the digital world. We need to deploy technology seriously in the judiciary to take it to the next level.
There must be an end to cases being adjourned by courts without prior notice to lawyers and vice versa. There is room for a lot of improvement in our judiciary.
I must however commend the vision of the Chief Justice of Nigeria to revolutionise the digital system in the Supreme Court and which we hope will spread to the lower courts.
The judiciary as the third arm of government has fared better than the other two. The judiciary being the bastion through which the hopes of a common man can be realised has exceedingly tried to live above board over the years.
However, the failure of the executive to give it financial autonomy is undermining the performance of the judiciary in a lot of ways because going cap in hand all the time to solicit for fund is not ideal aΩs it is making the judiciary subservient to the executives.
It is also painful that the conditions of service of these poor judges call for attention. It is unimaginable that the judges in Nigeria still write in long hands everyday.
In many courts, there are no lights or good ventilation; their vehicles which are to be changed every four years are not changed in eight, ten years depending on the states.
Government needs to improve their welfare.
If we are talking about judiciary since independence, I will want us to situate it in the eras of the first, second, third and the fourth republics.
Shortly before the first republic, judiciary has a reputation for hard work, integrity and all that is good about the administration of justice. I really appreciate the era of the judiciary in those periods.
Even, in the second republic, it was still okay but in contemporary Nigeria, there are problems. This is because life has gotten so complicated and Nigerians are now wiser and faster in the way they conduct things and sadly, the judiciary as we see it is not moving along with the tide. That may be the problem.
Justice Kayode Eso, when he was alive, said in their own time, there was no talk about millionaire judges. But we are now talking about millionaire judges even when there was no salary of a judge that is more than one million naira.
You see, the thing is that when you collect salary, you spend from it to maintain yourself. How then can you be a millionaire judge? A judge should take the job the way God will do it Himself.
I would not tag all judges as being corrupt because we still have sincere and God fearing judges around. There are still judges who do their work with integrity but there must be a systematic way of getting rid of bad eggs from the Bench.
We must look at the way we recruit people into the Bench. This is because how the Bench will look will be determined by the occupants. For this reason, I want to recommend that the process of appointing judges to the Bench should be stricter. Account checks in terms of character must be carried out on all aspiring judges.
Specifically, I want to suggest that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) should be involved in the appointment of judges in practical terms, so that we can have the best in the interest of justice administration.
The judiciary as one of the three arms of government has not done badly in Nigeria. Although as a nation, there have been challenges being faced by the judiciary, like other arms of government, it must, however, be on record that out of the three arms of government, the Nigerian judiciary has been up and doing for the roles it had played and still playing in our modern society.
However, like what is happening to other arms of government and other facets of the Nigeria society, the judiciary in some years back had some grey areas requiring improvements.
To me, however, if you examine the judiciary in whole, it has not done badly, but if you take the Court of Appeal in isolation, they are not performing very well, in view of cases before the courts, where the same court of concurrent jurisdiction gave different judgments almost on same issues at different divisions of the court.
The decisions of the courts, especially at the Supreme Court and sometimes at the trial courts have not been too bad. Unfortunately, the tempo is coming down. Indeed, the judiciary had encountered numerous challenges, which in some areas make them strong, while in some areas, they need an improvement.
Speaking on the political development and law process, for any nation in the world, to develop it must have a very strong legal system. So, this means that any nation that has no very strong legal system, that could guarantee due process and the rule of law, can never be developed. So, Nigeria is so lucky that what we inherited from the British colonial masters has helped us a lot.
Based on this, Nigeria is able to have a very long and strong legal and court system, which has helped a lot in the socio-political development of the country.
So, in the area of legal practice we are not doing badly. However, we need to buckle up to meet the contemporary issues and ensure that the nation lives up to expectation.
You cannot assess the judiciary without the lawyers, who are the ministers in the temple of justice. Lawyers in the country have been doing their best in the development of the nation and its court system.
However, there is skepticism that lawyers are aiding the politicians in creating clog in the wheel of court system, vis-a-vis the political development of the nation.
Part of the arguments was that lawyers use the court to support some politicians in filing frivolous cases before the court. You find a governor sometimes, who used dubious method to win election, he must have spent all his money to win by all means, he would want to recoup what he spent from public cover. He would get money to pay lawyers who would ensure that cases are not determined timely.
But a critical look at how she had fared in the past 59 years would show that it has been 59 years of tortuous existence. No doubt, she got her parenthood from the Great Britain and her Common Law.
The Nigerian Judiciary has served her “slave master” known as the Validity Act of 1865, who freed her in 1960 after a turbulent slavery that lasted 95 years. In 1958, she was asked to prepare herself for “independence” and in 1960, she was freed. Nigeria, her mother, also began her journey to free herself in 1957.
Unfortunately, Nigerian Judiciary had to be brutally colonized and suppressed again by the military totalitarianism, which lasted for almost 30 years. The Nigerian Judiciary bounced back in 1999, during the return to civil polity.
The judiciary operated with corporate conservatism until the arrival of Honourable Justice Alfa Belgore headship of same, who replicated some elements of the world’s greatest “expansioner” of the law scope, the late Lord Denning.
At this point, the judiciary became loved, endeared and cherished. The next was the arrival of the Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, who followed his predecessor’s precedence to a reasonable extent. Unfortunately, the tempo is dimming again.
We now have billionaire Election Tribunal Judges and all what not.
Indeed, the judiciary had encountered numerous challenges and more challenges are still mounting. Cost of justice and access to justice has remained elusive. While the conducts of the Supreme Court and some States/Federal High Courts have appreciated, those of the Appeal Court and the Magistrate/Customary/Area Courts have depreciated.
Prosecutions of civil and criminal cases still linger for so long a time.
Except in Lagos State, other States still hold criminal suspects via committal proceedings longer than necessary. Our laws have also remained substantially static. Our task to the judiciary is to ensure that our scope of law is steadily expanded.
There should also be the decentralization of the Supreme Court, creation of more divisions of the Court of Appeal and appointment of more Justices to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
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