Noren Oluwabunmi is an alumnus of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. Oluwabunmi was called to Bar in 2017. In this interview with JOHN CHIKEZIE, he speaks about his law journey, the judiciary and its challenges and sundry issues
My name is Noren Oluwabunmi and I’m an indigene of Ijebu East, Ogun State. I graduated from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University before proceeding to the Nigerian Law School, Kano campus. I was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2017.
The journey so far since 2017
Well, I joined the profession because it’s a noble one and also to make money. However, it has been really slow but steady. I’m learning new things every day. The pay isn’t coming as much as I had expected because most clients don’t want to pay lawyers until they are in real trouble. J
udiciary and justice delivery
In terms of justice delivery, the system is very slow because cases drag for so long that it makes litigants frustrated. This slow pace in litigation is largely being caused by the insufficient number of courts and judges.
I feel this is the number one reason. Also, some judges are lazy with little experience; they don’t sit regularly, they resume late for proceedings and therefore piles up their case docket. Mediation should be highly encouraged.
However, I would strongly recommend that the Nigerian criminal justice system be reformed in order to allow quick dispensation of justice.
Some of the reforms I would recommend would be to allow the courts electronically take record of proceedings in order to enable the judges stop the use of shorthand writing. This, I believe, will make cases they handle daily much faster.
Secondly, more judges should be appointed and more court rooms built. And lastly, E-filing or electronic filing should be introduced–a procedure where you can file a case and make payment without necessarily going to the court just like Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Challenges of criminal justice
The three major challenges facing the criminal justice system today include delay in trial and too many awaiting trial inmates; delay in getting advice from the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP’s advice); frivolous challenges by the police just to keep accused persons in custody.
Delayed trial – some cases spend years in court. And in some of the cases, the accused will be in prison custody because he has been denied bail. Imagine a case spending 4yrs and the accused was in custody all through but was later discharged and acquitted. He would have just suffered unjustly.
Cases that the magistrate court don’t have jurisdiction are referred to the office of the DPP for advice, whether they would go ahead and prosecute at the high court. Most of the time, the advice takes months and while waiting the accused might have been detained.
Sometimes the advice will just be lost in transit unless you follow up and put pressure. In some cases, the police in a bid to suffer an accused and deny him bail, they would charge an accused with frivolous crimes because they know the magistrate court don’t have the power to grant bail.
To make matters worse, the court at that stage cannot go to the merit of the case. This was evident in the #EndSARS period when protesters were charged with arson, armed robbery and murder.
Court’s adoption of virtual proceedings
It’s a great innovation especially for motions and judgements. Imagine a lawyer coming from Ikorodu to Igbosere just to move a motion. The adoption of virtual proceedings saves time and energy.
This would also influence positively on the trial of inmates in prisons. For example; the judge might be in the open court for the virtual hearing while the counsel are in their various locations, and only the accused, alongside witnesses, would be present in court.
Maybe gradually as we improve upon the system, provisions could be made for inmates to be tried from prison because for now, we know most prisons don’t even have computers. Therefore, the innovations can start gradually.
Incarceration of children and the law
It is well known that most police officers don’t really know their jobs talk less of the law. A child below the age of 13 is not capable of committing a crime. Also, there is a juvenile home where children are supposed to be kept. For instance in Lagos State, there is one along Oregun, Ikeja.
Some might be wondering who is responsible for this awful and unlawful remand of children in adult prisons; I’ll say we should all blame the police, the magistrates and the prison officials. All of them are culpable.
We should blame the police for the lack of training and education of their officers. The Magistrates, who refused to apply the principle of the law and bring the police to order. And the prisons that accept to detain these children. But in order to regulate this and prevent further remand of children,
Police officers ought to be properly trained, not only in combat but also in areas of the law. Magistrates should sit up and not be allowed to compromise.
They should be very ready to apply the rule of law and be ready to call the police to order. Courageous and fearless people should be appointed as Magistrates and judges. Magistrates should also take their other oversight duty, which is the inspection of police stations in their jurisdiction, very serious.
To be a good and sound legal practitioner to reckon with; to also establish a legal academy/clinic that will be going around secondary schools to enlighten them on their rights and give them more insight on legal issues such as rape, revenge porn etc. And to also render pro bono services to indigent people.