First, Let’s Get Senior Lawyers Disciplined for Aiding and Joining in the Miscarriage of Justice (A Rejoinder by Sylvester Udemezue)

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On 15 January 2024, I read with shock a news report under the headline, *”Senior Lawyers Ask Nigeria’s Judicial Council To Discipline Appeal Court Justices Involved in ‘Miscarriage of Justice’”*_ See: Arise; LawAndSociety. This raises instant questions: (a) Professional discipline against the justices for what professional misconduct specifically? (b) Is it a misconduct to deliver a judgement per in curriam? (c) Is it a misconduct to deliver a wrong judgement or for a judge to misinterpret the law? (d) Even if a judgement of court is said or found to be “perverse”, how is it a professional misconduct on the part of the judge? In *ATOLAGBE VS. SHORUN* (1985) LPELR-592 (SC), Oputa, JSC, had this to say on what amounts to a perverse decision of Court: _“Perverse simply means persistent in error, different from what is reasonable or required, against weight of evidence. A decision may be perverse where the trial Judge took into account, matters which he ought not to have taken into account or where the Judge shuts his eyes to the obvious.”_ Well, all these, stories for another day . The present commentary is a riposte, counter-call on NJC to immediately recommend to the LPDC for immediate professional disciplinary measures, all lawyers involved in “miscarriage of justice” in the plateau state election cases, and in debasement of democracy and destruction of the operation of rule of law in Nigeria.

Without going into too much details, or bothering us with long stories, permit me to respectfully submit that, no matter from which angle one looks at it, senior lawyers are among the major challenges facing administration of justice, frustrating smooth operation of the rule of law, and militating against democracy and good governance in Nigeria:

(A) Senior Lawyers knew that any lawsuit complaining about a political party’s compliance or otherwise with a court order in respect of the political party’s own primaries or nomination of its own candidates or whether the political party has or does not have structure, is a PRE-ELECTION lawsuit which must be commenced within 14 days of the affected primaries and nomination or submission of names of affected candidates,in line with Section 285(9) of the Nigerian Constitution. These primaries were held in June/July 2022. Yet, some senior lawyers filed these pre-election cases, disguised as post-election lawsuits, in April 2023

(B). Senior Lawyers knew that any lawsuit complaining about a political party’s internal affairs, is a PRE-ELECTION lawsuit which must be commenced BEFORE A REGULAR COURT, not before an election tribunal because Election Tribunal doesn’t have jurisdiction over such since the lawsuit is not a post-election lawsuit. Yet, some Nigerian Senior lawyers filed such cases/issues before an Election Tribunal in 2023.

(C). Specifically, senior Lawyers knew that APC had no LOCUS STANDI to file any lawsuit in respect of the internal affairs or nomination of candidates of PDP (another political party). Yet, some senior lawyers misled APC into filing such cases in April 2023, in respect of Plateau State.

*RELEVANT QUESTIONS ARISING*

1️⃣ Who filed the election petition at the election tribunal, raising obviously STATUTE-BARRED issues, in respect of which (the senior lawyers knew that) APC had no LOCUS STANDI, and which (they knew) an election tribunal had NO JURISDICTION to entertain?
*ANSWER:* Senior Lawyers

2️⃣Who had, by argument, misled the Tribunal and the Court of Appeal election-appeal Panel into perpetrating such a shockingly perversive misinterpretation of extant law and committing such a flagrant disregard for extant, binding judicial precedents?
*Answer:* Senior lawyers

3️⃣.Who had gone to the Supreme Court to advance the same thwarted argument and distorted view of extant law, expecting the Supreme Court to be also misled?
*ANSWER:* Senior Lawyers

4️⃣. Ironically, who are the ones now calling for the National Judicial Council (NJC) to “discipline” the justices of the Court of Appeal, who had handed down the Plateau election appeal judgements?
*ANSWER:* Senior Lawyers.

*FURTHER INSIGHTS INTO HOW SENIOR LAWYERS ARE DEBASING DEMOCRACY, GOOD GOVERNANCE AND THE RULE OF LAW*

5️⃣. Who fraudulently declared Madam Aisha Binani Governor even when everyone knew that collation was still ongoing in the Adamawa Governorship Election?
*ANSWER:* A senior lawyer

6️⃣. Who had filed a case at the Federal High Court asking the court to _by force by fire_ (forgive my French) declare Aisha Binani the Governor of Adamawa even when they knew she didn’t win, and on top of the fraudulent declaration already made (by a senior lawyer) and they knew FHC has no jurisdiction over post election lawsuits.
*ANSWER:* Senior Lawyers

7️⃣. Who filed cases in Court (against the spirit and express letters and words of the Constitution) asking that Tinubu must not be sworn in on 29 May 2023.
*ANSWER:* Senior Lawyers

8️⃣. Who were the persons who as LEGISLATIVE DRAFTSMEN, had provided in the Electoral Act, 2022, for mandatory electronic transmission from the polling unit, on election day, scanned copies of all polling unit result sheets during all elections and any election conducted under the Nigerian Electoral Act, 2022?
*ANSWER:* Senior lawyers

9️⃣. Who later went to court in 2023 arguing persistently that electronic transmission was not provided for in the Electoral Act 2022?
*ANSWER:* Senior Lawyers

🔟. The instances are legion, heartrending, depressing, of all what lawyers (senior lawyers) have done, are doing to diminish administration of justice, debase democracy, desecrate rule of law, and thereby indirectly stiffle progress in Nigeria. However, let me stop here for now.

*MY HUMBLE ADVICE TO THE NJC:*

Dear NJC, please, don’t listen to those senior lawyers making these baseless, diversionary calls to discipline Court of Appeal (CA) justices who merely did their official jobs, although in the process delivering perversively wrong judgments that have wrought an unprecedented gross injustice upon innocent people and the electorate of Plateau State. But if NJC is interested in disciplinary measures against anyone in this instance, I humbly submit that NJC should start by first recommending that all senior lawyers involved in deceiving, misleading and misguding our courts, all senior lawyers involved perpetrating miscarriage of justice, and desecration of the rule of law, should be made to face the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) for necessary disciplinary procedures. Although lawyers, including senior lawyers, are defenders of the rule of law and promoters of justice, yet it’s among the lawyers and senior lawyers that we find and have those who contribute to debasing the rule of law, corrupting administration of justice, destroying democracy and good governance, and thereby dwindling the progress of Nigeria. Let’s start by disciplining all senior lawyers who have broken their duties as Ministers in the Temple of Justice. A notable judge once said, _”This court in which we sit is a TEMPLE OF JUSTICE and the ADVOCATE at the BAR as well as the JUDGE on the BENCH are equally ministers in that temple. The object of all equally should be the attainment of justice. Now justice is only to be reached through the ascertainment of the truth, and for us all, judges, jurors, advocates and attorneys, together concerned in this search for the truth, the pursuit is a noble one…. [The ADVOCATE] gives to his client the benefit of his learning, his talents and his judgment, but all through he never forgets that he will not knowingly mis-state the law, he will not willfully mis-state the facts, though it be to gain the cause of his client. He will ever bear in mind that if he be an advocate of an individual, yet he has a prior and perpetual retainer on behalf of truth and justice and there is no crown or other licence, which in any case or for any party or purpose can discharge him from that primary and paramount retainer”_ (Crampton, J. in *R. V. O’Connell*). Denning, MR later explained better, the status and duties of lawyers:

_”As an advocate, he is a minister of justice equally with the judge. He must do all he honourably can on behalf of his client. I say all he honourably can because his duty is not only to his client. He has a duty to the court, which is paramount. He owes allegiance to a higher cause. It is the cause of truth and justice. He must disregard the most specific instructions of his client if they conflict with his duty to the court. The code which requires a barrister to do all this is not a code of law. It is a code of honour. If he breaks it, he is offending against the rules of the profession and is subject to its discipline.…”_ (RONDEL V WORSLEY).

Back here in Nigeria, the law governing law practice demands that _”A lawyer shall uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the course of justice… “._ (See Rule 1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners in Nigeria). Hence, a lawyer must “refuse to aid or participate in conduct that he believes to be unlawful even though there is some support for an argument that the conduct is legal” [See: Rule 15.(1) RPC, 2007]. Further, in his representation of his client, a lawyer shall — (a) keep strictly within the law notwithstanding any contrary instruction by his client and, if the client insists on a breach of the law, the lawyer shall withdraw his service; (b) use his best endeavors to restrain and prevent his client from committing misconduct or breach of the law with particular reference to judicial officers, witnesses and litigants and if the client persists in his action or conduct, the lawyer shall terminate their relation [RULE 15(2) RPC 2007]. Finally, a lawyer shall not — (a) give service or advice to the client which he knows or ought reasonably to know is capable of causing disloyalty to , or breach of, the law, or bringing disrespect to the holder of a judicial office, or involving corruption of holders of any public office; (b) file a suit, assert a position, conduct a defence, delay a trial, or take over action on behalf of his client when he knows or ought reasonably to know that such action would serve merely to harass or maliciously injure another; (c) knowingly advance a claim or defence that is unwarranted under existing law [See Rule 15(3) RPC)].

*MY ADVICE TO NIGERIA’S SENIOR LAWYERS:*

(Senior) lawyers cannot be of help in sanitizing judges, the judiciary and the wider society unless and until senior lawyers have sanitized themselves, sanitized lawyers, and sanitized the Bar. It is even hypocritical to purport to be trying to correct others when you have not been able to correct yourself. In a Holy Book’s Matthew 7:5 whose original words went thus: “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye”, Jesus The Christ, argues that one must first remove the plank in one’s own eyes, before going on to try to remove the speck in another’s. This verse warns us against the hypocrisy of rushing to see and try to cure the flaw (sin) in others while ignoring the obvious flaws/sins in our own lives. This is because one can’t be of help to other people unless one has helped oneself. One cannot be in a good position to correct other people, unless one has corrected oneself first. If you want to have enough to give to others, you will need to take care of yourself first. A tree that refuses water and sunlight for itself can’t bear fruit for others; you cannot serve from an empty vessel. Now, permit me to end with the admonition by Hon Justice Emmanuel Agim of the Supreme Court of Nigeria who was reported on 12 January 2024 to have _”warned the legal profession to wake up or else it would render itself irrelevant to the society”_
[See: “Supreme Court Reverses Sack Of Mutfwang As Plateau Gov”; Barristerng; 12 January 2024].
Respectfully,
Sylvester Udemezue (udems)
Proctor,
Reality Ministry of Justice (RMJ)
08109024556.
therealistministry@gmail.com.

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