It was a frank, robust and heart to heart talk at the conference room of the Chief Justice of Nigeria at the Supreme Court in Abuja on Wednesday 18th January 2017 when the President of the NBA, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, SAN led a delegation of some leaders of the Bar on a courtesy visit to the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen . The entourage of the NBA president include Isiaka Abiola Olagunju, the General Secretary of NBA, Chief Chris Uche SAN, Mrs Olabisi Shoyebo SAN, Aare Muyiwa Akinboro SAN, Mr. J. S. Okutepa SAN, Ogu Tim-Menakaya, Murtala Abdul-Rasheed Esq and Mrs.Ifueko Alufohai NBA Executive Director .
At the meeting, several issues of concerns were raised and discussed namely:
1. APPOINTMENT OF JUSTICE ONNOGHEN AS SUBSTANTIVE CJN.
The NBA notes with concern the delay in the appointment of a substantive CJN in Nigeria. The Bar shall be paying a visit to the President Muhammodu Buhari to impress on him the need to ratify immediately the recommendation of the NJC in appointing the Hon. Justice Walter Onoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria.
2. RECENT EVENTS IN THE JUDICIARY.
The NBA is seriously concerned about the arrest and arraignment of some senior judicial officers for corrupt practices. We have therefore constituted a team of senior counsel to hold watching briefs on behalf of NBA in the ongoing trial.
3. REFORM OF NJC
The NJC is the executive arm of the judiciary; NBA members should participate fully in all activities of the council including but limited to hearing of petitions against judges. The CJN should support the removal of all constitutional impediments disabling the Bar from full participation. The corporate and financial governance of the NJC should be strengthened , made transparent and public friendly.
4. APPOINTMENT OF LEGAL PRACTITIONERS TO THE SUPREME COURT BENCH
The NBA reiterates its call for the appointment of senior Lawyers of impeccable character and intellectual prowess to the Supreme Court bench. The Bar believes that appointment of Lawyers from diverse background will enhance the jurisprudential value of the court
5. CJN’s RESPONSE ON BAR-BENCH RELATIONSHIP
The Bar and the Bench are like Siamese twins. The relationship should be based on mutual respect and understanding . The judiciary cannot get the desired respect and confidence of Nigerians if the Bar does not support and respect the Bench.
It is very disheartening that some Lawyers now commit contempt ex-facia curia (in the face of the court) with impunity. “You cannot send a child to go and fetch fire in a neighbors’ house and at the same time start praying for rainfall”. If the Bar disrespects the Bench, it is destroying the entire legal profession.
6. ON LAWYERS ARGUING CASES IN THE MEDIA
Lawyers now constitute themselves to panels in electronic media to pre-empt, discuss and analyze judgments. This is unwholesome attitude is unacceptable. Erring lawyers should face disciplinary measures forthwith.
7. ON COURT ROOM DECORUM
Some Lawyers now dress shabbily and conduct their cases without decorum.
8. ON CORRUPTION IN THE JUDICIARY
The CJN asked rhetorically, who is corrupting who? Why are issues of corruption escalated immediately after election? Lawyers should be circumspect in condemning the entire judiciary for corrupt practices. The bad judges should be fished out and punished
9. ON FALLING STANDARD OF LAW PRACTICE
The entry qualification to study law should be 2nd Degree. Law school contributes little to the training of lawyers because before a student gets to the law school, his character traits would have been fully developed. The Legal Profession should be for the best brains.
10. ON APPOINTEMENT OF LAWYERS TO THE BENCH
The CJN welcomed Lawyers to the bench. Most successful lawyers had in the past turned down judiciary appointments. Those who want to come to the bench should be driven by service and passion for judicial duties
11. ON APPOINTMENT OF OTHER JUSTICES OF THE SUPREME COURT
There is no need for the appointment of full compliments of justice to the Supreme Court bench. The 17 justices that the Supreme Court presently have are the largest in the world.
Full compliments of justices will not solve the problem of congestion in the Supreme Court. What will reduce the work load is limiting the jurisdiction of the court to novel points of law. Appeals to the Supreme Court should be subject o the leave of the court.
Discussing matters that are subjudice and conducting trials in the media are antithetical to the values and ethics of the Legal Profession
12. A.B. MAHMOUD’S FINAL WORDS
He thanked the justices for this frank and robust conversation with the Bar. The Bar wants the Bench to allow the possibility of a Supreme Court with multiple capacities and diversities. The Bar would continue to interface with the bench .
Isiaka Abiola Olagunju Esq
Nigerian Bar Association
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