A judge of the Ogun State High Court has drawn the attention of the Nigerian Bar Association’s (NBA) Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) and the police to the activities of lawyers who specialize in collecting money from clients while purporting that it is meant for judges who handle their cases.
Trouble started when the Court Registrar revealed in the open court that a litigant approached her while the court was not in session and demanded to know “whether the N250,000 cash gift that was collected from her by her lawyer has been given to the judge in order to get a favourable judgment.”
The registrar was reported to have gone into the judge’s chambers to inform his Lordship of what the litigant told her.
The Judge, Olugboyega Ogunfowora, who was shocked, denied knowledge of such illegal arrangement and revealed that he could even dash a lawyer N250,000. He thereafter, recused himself from the case and returned the case file for reassignment to another judge. He also referred the case to the LPDC and the police.
It was further gathered that of late, this has become the habit and fashion among some lawyers.
In order to get more money from their clients, they ask such clients to make separate payment (sometimes running into hundreds of thousands or even millions of naira) for publicity and for judges who handle their cases. But neither the judge nor the press will be given such money which will be pocketed by the lawyer in addition to his/her legal fees.
Barr. Sikiruudeen Roberts said, “A good percentage of lawyers take the bribe in the name of the judge and take it for themselves and inform their clients that they had concluded the deal. In the event of losing the case, they would say that the other side had given a larger amount. Very rarely is the judge bribed.”
Some lawyers have commended the court registrar that reported the matter to her judge, and that if she had not reported the matter to the judge, there was no way the court would be aware of such practice.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who was in court, also related his experience before another judge. The SAN said he took over a case from a lawyer that had earlier handled it who had told his client to give monetary gift to the judge, and that the lawyer never gave any money to the judge. He said the lawyer went into the judge’s chambers with a brief case loaded with money in the presence of the client and came out without dropping a dime, and that the client then went to his friends and told them the lawyer had collected money for the judge.
The judge later got to know about the issue but never disclosed to anyone. So In most cases judges are unaware of these practices.