My Grouse: For the Sake of ‘His Honour’

Cross Section of Magistrates

The twist and turns I experience in this practice sometimes makes me do back and forth with anger. I have said it countless times;  I am a proud lawyer! I love everything about legal practice. I wish that everything about the practice is noble. I wish that everyone get their fair share of all there is in legal practice. I detest anything that makes legal practice ignoble. That may just be the reason why I am always in vent mood.  I want to see a situation where lawyers see themselves regardless of where they belong as learned friends. I detest disparity especially when it is coming from a place of frivolity and pettiness. I appreciate that some people are legends in laws and I would at least tolerate disparity from that angle. Nothing more, nothing less.Therefore, for me, where you practice does not really matter as much as what you are made of.

What’s my point? My complain today is hydra headed. I am getting upset with attitudes of some of our colleagues to magistrate courts practice and I am getting even more upset with the way and manner the Judiciary has contributed to this.  I swear some lawyers are just too proud for my liking. They are the ones that make the worst distinction between cadres of courts and use same as yardstick to measure the manner they relate with you. Excuse me sir!

So it happened that I met one of such lawyers, random colleague who became acquaintance at a point I really can’t remember. We got talking and along the line the discussion was something more like this:

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Friend: Hope you‘ve been having a good time this vacation o.

Me:  good time ke. I have been in and out of court since o.

Friend: Haba, which court is that during vacation again?

Me: magistrates’ courts.

Friend: wow, you do magistrate court?

Me: yea, I do.

Friend: That’s serious; I have never been to that court. I don’t do magistrate court practice. That court has a way of making people act somehow. Honestly, you don’t look like you practice in magistrate court? He continued with plenty rubbish about the way magistrate court makes a lawyer inferior. Needless for me to say he lost me without noticing. He was just blabbing and me I was looking at him like “your mumu has first class okay”

I was shocked at the things he said and I really didn’t think he needed my response. What is wrong with some of our colleagues self? You think those of us who appear at the magistrate court are less humans? You think we go there to play? You think what we do there is “era itage” or “papa luwe stage play”? (Please ask your Yoruba neighbour to interpret).

The one that actually angers me the more are the misplacement that is thrown at your face if you ever appear at the High Court or Federal High Court in Lagos and for some inexplicable reasons  your tongue slips and you address the judge as ‘Your Honour’ instead of ‘Mi Lord.’ All the “as the court pleases” members who pride themselves as the statutory owners of the higher cadres of court would almost jump out of their rickety wig and gown to punch you down. Trust yours truly, my defence mechanism also becomes ‘gangster’ “wetin happen?

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But you know, I really don’t blame our colleagues that much. If I have to put this into perspective, I would rather blame the government, particularly the Judiciary. The way and manner the magistrates are treated is demeaning, dehumanizing and humiliating. The privileges and condition of work and living for the magistrates is porous. A Magistrate won’t have a befitting library, no judicial assistant, no police orderly, nothing. A magistrate does not have the hope of the kind of promotion that automatically sees him climbing without much ado to the high court regardless of how brilliant. I mean how many have gone to the high court from there? Some of them lose it at some point and it is terrible.

Just recently, the Lagos State Judiciary decided that priority was to buy a brand new ‘Ford Escape’ car for newly appointed magistrates. Don’t get me wrong, this is in no small means a laudable idea, but, typical of the way and manner we solve problem from the top in Nigeria generally.  I beg, how does a magistrate who lives in a face me I slap you apartment drive his Ford Escape home? Where is the compound to keep it? I am aware of some magistrates in Lagos whose landlords have increased their rents just because they now drive Ford Escape. A certain magistrate-beneficiary of the Ford Escape narrated how he had to continue to park his car at a nearby police station until he was able to hurriedly secure a more decent apartment with the help of family members. But at least Lagos State Judiciary has taken some giant steps, they have done somethings. And with the exception of few, the tales from other states is too gory for publication.

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I mean these people do so much whether we agree or not. They are prone more to corruption and all manners of sharp practices and one may be tempted to justify their actions yet, we neglect them and in the process lawyers have also joined to tag their colleagues who practice at the magistrate courts as less lawyers! Sad!

My Grouse – venting my frustrations!

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