The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen, opened the 2018 – 2019 legal year on Monday, September 25, 2018 on a sour note when he disclosed that many lawyers have been found to have forged judgements in their bids to qualify as Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN.
To qualify for this prestigious position conferred by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, LPPC, a lawyer must spend not less than ten years as a practitioner and distinguish himself or herself in the profession by providing evidence of a minimum number of cases contested at the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
In addition to sound knowledge of the law, he or she must be a person of good character. A SAN is a member of the Inner Bar and is granted the privilege to sit at the front row of the court and have his or her case called early.
Onnoghen, however, lamented that, “in the just concluded exercise some applicants were found to have engaged in dishonourable conducts such as the forgery of judgments, resulting in their being reported to the police for investigation and possible prosecution. We have to know that if one is not for any reason qualified to wear the silk as a judicial officer, he cannot wear it as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria”.
We strongly believe that this anomaly is not new in the Judiciary. Many people who are occupying privileged positions in the court halls as SANs could have acquired them through fraudulent means and the Judiciary should not relent until they are fished out, disbarred and sent to jail.
The Onnoghen era has scored a number of heart-warming milestones in its efforts to cleanse the Judiciary from within rather than wait for the Executive Branch to meddle through their so-called “sting operations” and other acts of impunity.
We encourage the CJN and the National Judicial Council, NJC, not to rest in efforts to rid the Judiciary of bad eggs and regain the people’s confidence. The Judiciary needs to shape up to the challenges of the oncoming general elections in 2019.
Lawyers and judges had, in the past, worked hands-in-gloves with corrupt and desperate politicians to steal the people’s mandates and keep treasury looters in office in exchange for a slice of the filthy lucre.
Unlike in 2015 when some serious political contests (such as the presidential election) went without challenges at the election tribunals up to the Supreme Court, the 2019 polls are likely to be keenly and even bitterly contested.
We need a strong, focused and patriotic Judiciary and faithful servants in the temple of justice to protect the people’s mandate and save our democracy. We are confident the Judiciary under Walter Onnoghen will deliver.