WHY COURT OF APPEAL JUSTICES MUST NOT ACT IN VAIN

The appointment of the latest batch of Court of Appeal Justices has been strewn with controversies, not least the claim that the interviews conducted by the National Judicial Council was perhaps shambolic. Just when justice sector stakeholders thought that the ghost of the troubled exercise was to be laid to rest with the scheduled swearing-in of the justices, the ceremony was postponed indefinitely ostensibly to enable the new justices “clear their desks in their various offices.” In this piece, KAYODE OGUNDAIRO posits that on the strength of the undisturbed judgement of the Supreme Court in OGBUNYIYA v OKUDO, any judicial acts done by the justices after their appointments would be a nullity and liable to being set aside on appeal.

The indefinite postponement of the swearing-in of the newly appointed justices of the Court of Appeal came to many as a shock, not least because of the reason adduced for the aborted exercise. This is a purely judicial matter outside the remit of the National Judicial Council (NJC).

If “clear their desks in their various offices to ensure that there are no outstanding issues before they assume their new responsibilities” suggests that the Justices should proceed to deliver judgments/rulings or discharge any other judicial role in the Federal High Court/High Court/ National Industrial Court under the guise of ‘clearing their desks”, that would, with great respect, amount to an exercise in futility on the strength of OGBUNYIYA v OKUDO (1979) 9 SC 32 as recently reinforced by UDEOGU v FRN.

OGBUNYIYA v. OKUDO dealt with provisions impari materia with ss. 283(2) and 290(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which are crystal clear.

238 (2): “The appointment of a person to the office of a Justice of the Court of Appeal shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council”.

290 (1): A person appointed to any judicial office shall not begin to perform the functions of that office until he has declared his assets and liabilities as prescribed under this Constitution and has subsequently taken and subscribed the Oath of Allegiance and the Judicial Oath prescribed in the seventh Schedule to this Constitution.

In OGBUNYIYA v OKUDO, the submission of Chief F.R.A. Williams on behalf of the Appellants, was that by virtue of the appointment of Nnaemeka-Agu J. (as he then was) as expressed in Exhibit SC.1, he ceased to be a Judge of the High Court of Anambra State on the 15th June, 1977, two days prior to delivery by him of the judgement on appeal.

The reaction of Mr. Afolabi Lardner (of counsel) for the Respondents was that until the Learned Judge was sworn in as Justice of the Court of Appeal, he was precluded by virtue of Section 128 of the Constitution of the Federation No. 20 of 1963 from entering upon the duties of his office, so that in the absence of evidence that he had on or prior to the 17th of June, 1977 been sworn in as a Judge of the Federal Court of Appeal, he was on that date still a Judge of the High Court of Anambra State.

The Supreme Court construed Section 128 of the Constitution of the Federation No. 20 of 1963 as amended by section 1(c) of the Schedule to The Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2) Decree No. 42 of 1976 (impari materia with s. 290(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended) which made it imperative that “a Judge of the Federal Court of Appeal” shall not enter upon the duties of his office unless he has “taken or subscribed the Oath of Allegiance and such oath for the execution of the duties of his office as may be prescribed by Parliament”.

Allowing the appeal, the Supreme Court set aside the judgment delivered by Justice Nnaemeka-Agu (after his appointment as JCA but before he took the requisite oath) and ordered a trial de novo.

The Supreme Court held thus:

“A close look at Section 128 of the Constitution (No. 20 of 1963) as amended by the Schedule to Decree No. 42 of 1976 shows clearly that the section is intended to lay down a condition precedent to the functioning but NOT the appointment of a Judge. That section impliedly recognises the fact of appointment (already as a Judge) of the incumbent of that public office but makes the swearing of the prescribed oaths condition precedent to his functioning in that office. The language of the section reads:
“A Judge of the Supreme Court, Federal Court of Appeal and of the High Court of Lagos NOT a person appointed to be a Judge of the Supreme Court, Federal Court of Appeal and of the High Court of Lagos shall not enter upon the duties of his office (not, be it noted, enter upon his office) unless he has taken or subscribed the Oath of Allegiance and such oath for the due execution of his office as may be prescribed by (Italics supplied by Court).
… The language of section 128 aforesaid is directed to the entering by a judge (not by a judge designate) upon the duties of his office (not, upon his office).

This should ordinarily rest the matter.

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EXCLUSIVE: CJN RETURNS FROM DUBAI, RESUMES DUTY

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad has returned to Nigeria after a brief trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

An unimpeachable source told CITY LAWYER that Justice Muhammad flew back to the country yesterday.

“There are strong indications that the CJN is currently at his duty post in the office as we speak,” the source told CITY LAWYER.

A member of the Supreme Court, Justice Ibrahim Saulawa had reportedly told the audience at the unveiling of the national headquarters of the Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria (MULAN) in Abuja that Justice Muhammad had tested positive for coronavirus and had been flown to Dubai, the United Arab Emirates for treatment.

Justice Muhammad was absent at the new legal year ceremony of the Supreme Court where he was scheduled to preside over the inauguration of 72 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria, leading to anxiety over his health status. The event was presided over by the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour.

Justice Saulawa’s comment was supposed to have doused the anxiety but the Supreme Court’s Director of Information, Dr. Festus Akande described the COVID-19 report as a rumour, adding: “In furtherance to the press statement earlier issued, I wish to state categorically clear that there is no medical report so far made available by anybody indicating that the Hon. CJN has tested positive for Coronavirus.

“Those peddling the rumour should go a step further to confirm from their sources and equally obtain the copy of whatever laboratory test result they are relying on.

“As of this moment of issuing this statement, no one has so far shown me or any other person in Supreme Court a copy of the test result they are referring to in the report.”

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CJN TO CHAIR 12TH GADZAMA ANNUAL LECTURE TODAY

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad will today chair the 12th edition of the popular “J-K Gadzama LLP Annual Public Lecture” which holds from 3 pm to 6 pm.

The theme of the lecture is “Rebuilding the nation post COVID-19 outbreak: the judicial, economic and political perspectives.” The lecture which is being held virtually for the first time has renowned jurist, Dr. Mahdi Shehu, Chairman of Dialogue Groups as the Keynote Speaker.

The discussants include Nella Andem-Rabana SAN, Principal Partner, Lexglobal Partners; Prof. Joash Amupitan SAN, Professor of Law, University of Jos; Dr. Sam Amadi, former Chairman/CEO, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), and Mr. Akinlabi Akingbade, Partner/Head of Chambers, J-K Gadzama LLP.

Mr. Madu Joe-Kyari Gadzama, Junior Partner, J-K Gadzama LLP will compere the lecture.

To register, click on https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0qde6qrz8iGtW_Oz4A8BoXUEdIj20VwWp3

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CONTROVERSY, AS JUDICIAL BODY SHUNS NBA, APPOINTS SCRIBE

Barring any last-minute hitches, the Secretary of Nigeria’s Body of Benchers, Hajia Sadiya Turaki will tomorrow assume duties as the new scribe of the influential Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC).

Multiple and unimpeachable sources told CITY LAWYER that Turaki has been appointed by the commission chaired by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad as the new Secretary to replace Mr. Bassey E. Bassey who retired on September 23, 2020.

Turaki’s appointment is coming on the heels of allegations that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) may have been shut out of the appointment process, contrary to the provisions of Section 153(2) and 154(1) of the 1999 Constitution as well as Paragraph 12 Part 1 of the Third Schedule to 1999 Constitution. 

While Paragraph 12 (6) Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution stipulates that the membership composition of the FJSC shall include “Two persons, each of whom has been qualified to practice as a Legal Practitioner in Nigeria for a period of not less than fifteen years, from a list of not less than four persons so qualified and recommended by the Nigerian Bar Association,” CITY LAWYER gathered from impeccable sources that NBA has not participated in the decision-making process of the commission for over two years since the tenure of its former representatives ended.

Paragraph 13(c), Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution empowers the commission to “Appoint, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over the Chief Registrars and Deputy Chief Registrars of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the Federal High Court, the National Industrial Court and all other members of the staff of the Judicial Service of the Federation not otherwise specified in this Constitution and of the Federal Judicial Service Commission.”

CITY LAWYER investigation shows that the last set of NBA representatives at the commission were Mr. Olumuyiwa Akinboro SAN and Hajia Fatima Kwaku (MFR) whose names were forwarded by then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar to former President Goodluck Jonathan for transmission to the Senate for confirmation. Their five-year tenure ended on 3rd July, 2018.

A source who is familiar with the matter told CITY LAWYER that though the immediate past NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN made spirited efforts to ensure NBA’s representation at the commission, such efforts did not yield fruits. The source stated that though Usoro had on at least three occasions submitted the list of NBA nominees to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, there are strong indications that the list was not transmitted to the Senate through the President for approval. CITY LAWYER also gathered from unimpeachable sources that the names of two NBA nominees are still currently pending at the all-important commission.

Though CITY LAWYER sought the views of NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata on the development through a short messaging service and WhatsApp message to his verified telephone number, he promised that “I will call you back shortly” but was yet to do so at press time. 

Aside from NBA representatives, the commission’s membership comprises of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, who shall be the Chairman; President of the Court of Appeal; Attorney-General of the Federation; Chief Judge of the Federal High Court; President of the National Industrial Court, and “Two other persons, not being Legal Practitioners, who in the opinion of the President are of unquestionable integrity.” The non-lawyers are Senator Abba Ali and Malam Mohammed Sagir. However, only NBA is currently unrepresented in the 9-member commission.

The commission’s Secretary doubles as its Chief Executive and Accounting Officer.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

OSINBAJO, CJN, USORO, AKPATA, OTHERS FOR LEGAL TECH CONFAB

FEATURED

Virtual LegalTech Conference unveils New Ecosystem for Client/Lawyer Engagement and Administration of Justice in Nigeria Post COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage economies all around the world, there has been an increased pivot in the use and adoption of technology across several industries, where hitherto technology was a mere tool and not a driver of day to day operations. The world as we knew it has changed forever and it is imperative that this paradigm shift is accentuated by current realities of how individuals, organizations, institutions and governments work and interact.

The realization that the operation of businesses and delivery of services cannot go back to pre COVID-19 ways of providing goods and services has motivated putting together the first Legal Technologies Virtual Conference, by Nigeria’s foremost LegalTech company, LawPavilion Business Solutions Limited, in conjunction with Telnet Group, Nigeria’s leading digital transformation company, to be held on August 13-14, 2020.

The conference which will be available to participants from all around the world through Zoom video conferencing app features a line-up of erudite judges and legal practitioners in both public and private sectors. The Keynote Address will be delivered by His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN, GCON, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Other dignitaries expected at the virtual conference include His Lordship, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed CFR, Chief Justice of the Federation of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council; the Honorable Senate President, Hon. Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan; Honorable Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; the President of the Nigerian Bar Association and other captains of industry and legal luminaries.

Briefing the press in Lagos, the Managing Director of LawPavilion Business Solutions, Mr. Ope Olugasa remarked that for almost 2 decades, LawPavilion has been at the forefront of providing and improving access to digital tools for the legal services industry. It has become imperative to leverage technology to accelerate access to justice for Nigerians and organizations interested in doing business in Nigeria.

Speaking further, Olugasa stated that while the general public tends to think of the judiciary as the least visible or important arm of government, the role of the judiciary comprising of judges, lawyers, arbitrators, mediators and legal institutions in economic growth and development is so critical, that where the justice system is fraught with inefficiencies and inadequacies, economic growth is stunted. He pointed out that for example, in today’s global market, true wealth is no longer in only expansive real estate or tangible cash, but in holding intangible intellectual property. Thus, economies that do not accord enough recognition and protection of law to intellectual property stand a genuine risk of not being at par with other economies.

The conference, which will span over 2 days comprise of a keynote lecture and panel discussions on the role of an efficient justice system in driving the wheel of innovation and economic growth, with panelists such as Hon Justice Olukayode Ariwoola (JSC), Hon. Justice Amina Augie (JSC), Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN, Mr. Wale Fapohunda, AG Ekiti State, Mr. Folorunsho Aliu, Group MD of Telnet Nigeria Ltd and Mr. Gbenga Sesan, CEO Paradigm Initiatives. There will also be breakout sessions focusing on seamless court integration as well as tools and resources to run an efficient law firm post COVID-19 using technology.

Some of the discussants at the breakout sessions will include Hon. Justice Kashim Zannah, Chief Judge of Borno State and Chairman of National Judicial ICT Committee; Hon. Justice Olutoyin Akeredolu, the Chief Judge of Ondo State; Dr. Ayodele Akenroye, Judge of Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada; Mr. Dapo Akinosun of SimmonsCooper Partners; Mr. Sesan Sobowale, Head of Legal, Union Bank of Nigeria; Mr. Raymond Mgbokwere, Head of Legal, First Bank of Nigeria and Mr. Seun Abimbola, Former AG of Oyo State and Chairman of NBA Section on Legal Practice.

Commenting further, Olugasa pointed out that there has been a significant revolution of the banking industry through the introduction and adoption of FinTech in Nigeria, which has exponentially raised the profile of Nigeria’s banking industry. There has been significant collaboration between banking institutions, stakeholders and government agencies to consolidate and rapidly enhance banking operations, irrespective of location or time.

Accordingly, the legal services industry is also ripe and well primed for such technological transformation and the virtual Legal Technologies Conference being hosted by LawPavilion, in conjunction with Telnet Group, will showcase the unveiling of an enterprise solution for the judiciary,  LawRights App (for the general citizenry), Lagos State Laws in E-book version integrated into LawPavilion’s award-winning legal research software, all of which constitute parts of a new ecosystem, seeking to institutionalize legal-technology in Nigeria’s justice sector.