The leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has expressed displeasure over the delay in the appointment of a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and planned to meet President Muhammadu Buhari to impress it on him the need to speed up things in that regard. – Sahara Reporters reports.
The leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has expressed displeasure over the delay in the appointment of a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and planned to meet President Muhammadu Buhari to impress it on him the need to speed up things in that regard.
Justice Walter Onnoghen currently functions as CJN in an acting capacity. The appointment of the acting CJN in a substantive capacity, SaharaReporters was reliably informed, is one of the numerous demands made by the lawyers’ body during a meeting with Justice Onnoghen at the CJN Conference Room at the Supreme Court in Abuja on 18 January. Sources close to the meeting said the NBA delegation was led by the body’s President, Mr. Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud (SAN). Others members of the delegation included Mr. Isiaka Abiola Olagunju, General Secretary; Mr. Chris Uche (SAN), Mrs. Olabisi Shoyebo (SAN), Mr. Muyiwa Akinboro (SAN), Mr. J. S. Okutepa (SAN), Mr. Ogu Tim-Menakaya, Mr. Murtala Abdul-Rasheed and Mrs. Ifueko Alufohai, NBA Executive Director.
Sources familiar with the meeting described the discussions as robust and frank.
The NBA delegation was said to have expressed concern over the delay in the appointment of a substantive CJN and promised to visit President Muhammadu Buhari to impress on him the need to immediately ratify the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) in appointing Justice Onoghen as substantive CJN.
The NBA leadership, sources added, also expressed concern over the arrest and arraignment of some senior judicial officers for corrupt practices and as such, raised a team of senior lawyers to hold watching briefs on behalf of NBA in the ongoing trial of the affected judicial officers.
Similarly discussed at the meeting was the subject of the reform of the NJC, the executive arm of the judiciary.
The NBA recommended that its members should participate fully in all NJC activities, including hearing of petitions against judges and called on the CJN to support the removal of all constitutional hurdles against the full participation of the Bar.
A source told SaharaReporters that the NBA equally demanded the strengthening of the corporate and financial governance of the NJC should be strengthened, saying it should be made more transparent and public friendly.
Another demand of the NBA, disclosed sources, was the appointment of senior with integrity to the Supreme Court bench, arguing that the appointment of lawyers from diverse backgrounds will boost the jurisprudential value of the court
Responding to the issue of the relationship between the Bar and Bench, Justice Onnoghen was said to have described the two arms as “Siamese twins”. He counseled that the relationship should be one driven by mutual respect and understanding.
The acting CJN, sources added, told his guests that the judiciary cannot enjoy public respect and confidence if the Bar does not support and respect the Bench.
Justice Onnoghen was also said to have lamented the impunity with which some lawyers commit contempt. He reportedly warned that if the Bar disrespects the Bench, it is destroying the entire legal profession.
He also expressed displeasure with the trend that has seen lawyers arguing cases in the media, a development he said makes them into self-constituted panels to pre-empt, discuss and analyze judgments. The CJN said lawyers in the habit of doing this should henceforth face disciplinary measures because discussing matters that are subjudice and conducting trials in the media are at variance with values and ethics of the legal profession.
Justice Onnoghen was said to have similarly complained about the shabby dressing of some lawyers during court appearances and the indecorous manner in which they prosecute their cases.
On judicial corruption, the CJN warned lawyers to be restrained in their condemnation of the entire judiciary.
“Who is corrupting who? Why did issues of corruption escalate immediately after elections?” he was said to have asked. Justice Onnoghen was said to have added that rotten judges should be fished out and punished.
The acting CJN expressed worry over the dipping standards of legal practice, saying the legal profession should be for the best brains. He was said to have prescribed a second degree as the minimum entry qualification to study Law. He argued that the Nigerian Law School contributes little to the training of lawyers because the character of the student would have been formed before he or she is admitted to the Nigerian Law School.
Justice Onnoghen was receptive to the suggestion that lawyers should be part of the Bench. He, however, noted that many successful lawyers had previously rejected appointments into the judiciary. Justice Onnoghen advised that lawyers keen on membership of the Bench should be driven by love for service and passion for judicial duties.
On the appointment of other justices of the Supreme Court, the acting CJN, according to sources, said there is no need for the appointment of a fuller compliment of justices to the Supreme Court because, with 17, the court already has the world’s largest number of judges.
“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 to the leave of the court,” he was quoted to have said.
The NBA President was said to have thanked Justice Onnoghen and other justices for the frankness of the discussions with the Bar and promised that the Bar would continue to interface with the Bench.
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