JUSUN STRIKE: ANY SUCCOUR FOR LAWYERS, LITIGANTS? – TAIDI

Immediate past Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) General Secretary, MR. JONATHAN TAIDI argues in this piece that following the strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), the Practice Directions issued by heads of courts suspending payment of default fees and penalty which accrued during the strike period will go a long way to ameliorate the financial losses wrought by the closure of courts

The over two months old suspended strike of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) left lawyers financially handicapped as clients suspended their financial obligations. Our court rooms across the country were for the first time under lock and key for non natural cause which made it more devastating than the Covid-19 induced lockdown. This also left the litigating public stranded.

As a result of this negative impact on the lawyer and the litigants, the intervention of heads of courts by way of Practice Direction to suspend default fees and penalty payments which accrued during the strike period will go a long way in ameliorating the heavy financial losses occasioned by the court’s closure.

There is no doubt that the court dockets have exceeded saturation point due to the Covid-19 pandemic and attendant slow adaptation of technology and the pile-up due to the strike action. The best and only way to clear the backlog is by soliciting for the understanding of their Lordships to embark on a staggered 2021 annual courts vacation to cover up for the period of the strike action in order to compensate for the already truncated months as a result of the strike.

This will go a long way in aiding lawyers, old and young at the bar, get back to their practice.

A desirable timely succor.

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NBA, JUDICIARY WADE INTO ENUGU MAGISTRACY REMAND SAGA

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Enugu State Judiciary have waded into the controversy trailing the alleged remand order on an Enugu-based lawyer by His Worship, Ezeobi Ngozi Anidi (Mrs.), a Chief Magistrate sitting at an Agbogugu Magistrates Court in Enugu State.

The social media was agog at the weekend following reports that a lawyer, Mr. Fidelis Okeke was ordered to be remanded in police custody following the absence of his client in court in Charge No. CMC/12c/2017, Commissioner of Police vs John Chidozie Igwe. Speculations were rife that the trending ruling was fake, prompting a frenzied debate among lawyers and jurists.

CITY LAWYER can authoritatively report that both the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Enugu State Judiciary have waded into the controversy with a view to unraveling the facts.

The first hint of NBA’s intervention was dropped by the National Welfare Secretary and Publicity Secretary Emeritus, Mr. Kunle Edun via an online post thus: “The NBA 1st Vice President is following up on the matter with the local branch. We are impatiently waiting for the report of the local branch intervention.”

When CITY LAWYER sought more clarification on the post, Edun, a human rights activist, said: “We want to get first-hand report from the branch first, which we are still awaiting.”

Confirming the interventions, Okeke told CITY LAWYER that both NBA Enugu Branch Chairman, Mr. Jude Ezegwui and the Chief Registrar of Enugu State Judiciary, Magistrate Kingsley Eze have got in touch with him.

While he had narrated his experience to the Chief Registrar, there are strong indications that the branch may have asked him to submit a written report on the debacle for onward transmission to the national body. “I plan to do so immediately I’m done with the two matters I have in court today,” he told CITY LAWYER.

Though Okeke claimed that the chief magistrate ordered his remand in police custody, some lawyers argued that the trending ruling was fake, as it was not signed by the magistrate. There were indications that the remand order was vacated by the court.

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COURT AUTOMATION: EASTERN BAR FORUM COMMENDS RIVERS JUDICIARY

The Eastern Bar Forum (EBF) has commended the Rivers State Judiciary on the one year anniversary of its e-Filing and Court Automation platform which commenced on Tuesday, March 9 and will continue till the end of March.

In a congratulatory letter to the Chairman of the Rivers State Judiciary ICT Committee, Hon. Justice Elsie Thompson dated 12th March, 2021 and titled “Rivers State e-filing platform: Letter of commendation,” the forum noted that “What many saw as impossible has been made possible because of your sincerity of purpose, doggedness and sense of responsibility.”

Signed by Mr. S. Long Williams and Sir Ray Akanwa, Chairman and Secretary of the forum respectively, the influential regional Bar forum said: “We, on behalf of the entire forty five (45) NBA Branches in the Eastern Bar Forum felicitate with you and the entire Rivers State Judiciary on the one year anniversary of the launch of the e-filing platform in the Rivers State Judiciary.”

While commending Justice Thompson “for a work well done,” the Eastern Bar Forum said: “We urge you to continue with your good works as you join the Hon. Chief Judge of Rivers State to make the Rivers State Judiciary the cynosure of all the Judiciary in Nigeria.”

Commenting on the milestone at a press conference held to celebrate the anniversary, the State Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra said: “Good justice systems are independent, transparent, accountable and efficient. Citizens depend on the judicial arm of government for key decisions that affect their daily lives and the society they live in. A good justice system is an inalienable right of the citizen.

“In order to initiate lasting reforms in the justice sector and to replace the archaic procedures and outmoded administrative and management systems, information and communications technology (ICT) solutions have been deployed holistically at the Rivers State Judiciary to provide end-to-end automation of the caseflow system.

“I believe that Information and communications technology have brought a turning point in the history of human civilization. It has brought about numerous changes and innovations in all fields of human activity. It has resulted in enhanced efficiency, productivity and quality of output in every walk of life. And the Justice sector should not be an exception.

“The last 365 days in the Rivers State Judiciary has been a journey of automating processes for improved speed in the administration of justice. The journey has been experiential with a lot of positive feedbacks and improvements on an ongoing basis.

“Most of the Rules that operate in our courts today date back to decades of manual and analogue practice that always require human intrusion to achieve the desired goal of effective justice administration.

“More than ever before, the pandemic revealed most of the inadequacies of the manual system and informed how the use of technology can greatly improve the access to justice and speed up the delivery of same. The all-round support from the State Government gave the needed impetus for us to embark on the audacious journey of automating the Rivers State Judiciary.”

The project is receiving technical support from Mr. Emeka Albert, a Justice Sector Reform Consultant and Chief Editor of LEGALPEDIA, who told CITY LAWYER that “more special modules and features of the platform have been scheduled for roll out soon.”

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JUDICIARY: A STATE OF EMERGENCY

In this article, leading human rights activist, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN spotlights the crises rocking the nation’s judiciary and calls for urgent reforms.

When the President announced the first Coronavirus lockdown at the end of March, 2020, hardly did we ever think that it would continue in this form, with the economy in shambles, all critical sectors crawling and almost everything at a standstill. Following that painful but necessary lockdown, the judiciary began to wobble, while many cases suffered long delays and others were adjourned sine die. Then came the EndSARS protests, the looting of the courts, the burning down of the oldest court building in Nigeria, together with its archives and antiquities. It is doubtful if the court system will ever recover from that invasion, notwithstanding the gallant efforts of the leadership of the judiciary and indeed the Lagos State Government. We are gradually feeling the heat of these catastrophic occurrences, as no substantial progress has been made ever since. Some judges have no courtrooms to sit in to conduct judicial business, some others share a single courtroom with other judges while some others have no chambers or office to operate from, due to no fault of theirs. It is that serious indeed.

The Judiciary is established under section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended. The Constitution proceeds to state the function of the judiciary as to “extend to all matters between persons, or between government or authority and to any person in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any questions as to the civil rights and obligations of that person.” In reality therefore, the judicial powers as conferred upon the courts relate to adjudication and determination of disputes. This power is traceable to the period of creation, when the first man (Adam) was put to trial in the Garden of Eden. God drafted the charges, served them on him and took his defences thereto and thereafter judgment was passed. However, judicial power was properly codified when the father-in-law of Moses visited him and advised him to set up several courts for the resolution of all contentious issues, depending on their magnitude. Man has followed this pattern ever since, leading to the trial, condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus by the Jews.

The judiciary became more entrenched as part of the foundation of the creation of Nigeria, due to the Sir Henry Willink Commission of Inquiry report, detailing the means of addressing the fears expressed by the minority ethnic groups, post-independence. Assuredly, there will always be one dispute or the other, in any human endeavor or existence. With their over-bloated population and size, the majority ethnic groups could always boast of electoral victory to form the cabinet and also majority in the parliament, any day, through which they would continue to dominate the minority groups. It was then resolved to establish a strong judicial system, capable of intervening in any dispute between persons and persons, persons and governments or indeed any other authority. This partly accounts for the reason why the judiciary was established as an independent and autonomous arm of government, to be strong enough to look anyone in the eye, to be strong enough to damn oppressive policies and strike down all manners of injustice. This worked well for some time, until the military emerged with absolute powers and decrees, through which the powers of the courts were circumscribed and at times suspended, outrightly. But even under the military, the judiciary remained the only arm of government that could not be dissolved totally, unlike the parliament and the executive. No government has been so brutish and damning, as to outrightly sack the courts; we have never had it so bad and we pray not to ever have such malady, in our time.

What then is the problem with the judiciary? It insists on the rule of law, the rule of prescription, the rule of certainty, the rule of fairness and the rule of equity and equality. The judiciary abhors all forms of impunity, by which arbitrariness and unequal application of rules and regulations become the norm of human behavior. In this regard therefore, everyone in the judiciary is a potential threat to and target of the executive arm of government, represented by the President or Governor, Ministers or Commissioners, police officers, law enforcement agencies, public officers, civil servants, heads of government parastatals and other agencies. They mostly would love to bend the rules, when their vested interests are at stake, which invariably sets them in confrontation with the judiciary.

Membership of the Bench is however a special calling, not meant for the ordinary human being, given to the usual emotions and fancies. The judge is expected to be a special breed, above board, sober, conservative, moderate in all things and without any flair for extravagance or such worldly cravings. He is to keep away from society, some of whom may end up in his court one day. In return for these manifold deprivations, society accords him dignity, honour and reverence and call him “My Lord”, being the next person to God in terms of power and authority. In addition, the State undertakes to pick up his bills and guarantee him a secured tenure of office and a worthy life of retirement, after the Bench. But has this been the case? In times past, yes, but not so any longer. The State has failed in its duty of care for the welfare of the judge, some of whom have not experienced any wage increase for over ten years. The judge is overburdened with cases, has no judicial assistant as compared with his counterparts in the cabinet as Minister, or in the Senate, all who have countless aides and personal assistants. So, we failed the judges, no doubt.

But more worrisome is the fact that the judges themselves failed society, by departing from their established codes and ethics, by mingling and tangling with the society, by craving the very things that they were supposed to condemn and punish in their judgments. Some judges became very affluent, some parading estates upon estates, even abroad! Some of the judges were pushed to the lion by the neglect of the State, becoming willing tools in the hands of crooked lawyers and their corrupt clients. Or else, how can it be said that motions and processes are cooked and drafted in the homes of judges, that judges have special preference for certain lawyers that they work with and some even enjoy the patronage of litigants. It then got so bad that oftentimes when clients go to brief the lawyer, they want to know how to get access to judges, and when you don’t oblige them, they find their way there!

The judiciary is in dire need of reforms, the legal profession is crying for attention, such that the Bar and the Bench should this very moment declare a state of emergency. Why has the State abandoned the courts? Why can’t we have as many judges as we have Senators and Legislators? Why should the courts be so few and congested, to the extent that in the Supreme Court presently, civil appeals filed in 2008 are the ones being treated? Why should we have only fifteen justices for the entire Supreme Court of a nation of over 200 million people? Why should a State like Lagos, with over 24 million people, be served by less than 50 judges? Why should judges be so poorly treated, such that when a Justice of the Supreme Court was retiring, she lamented that she had no personal house of her own to stay? How on earth can we expect balanced judgment from the one who has not been catered for? When they go to the same market to buy food and their children attend the same schools? Should it be an offence to go to the Bench to serve one’s country?

There is fire on the rooftop! Why should any judge, worth his name and dignity, be involved in arranging the movement and assignment of cases to his court? Why should any judge ever agree to meet with any litigant that has a case in his court? Why should anyone who has the fear of God, be twisting the facts of any case, just to reach a pre-arranged conclusion? Why should judgment be for sale? Why did I go to study law, why am I busy studying and preparing for any case, burning the midnight oil, if the outcome of all my labour is up for sale, to the highest bidder? Why should any client bother himself to hire me as his lawyer, if he could get access to the judge and buy the judgment off the court? Truth is, no bribe given ever remains a secret. How can a judge still be sitting in the open court, pretending to be listening to the lawyers and their witnesses, when he has already been paid by one of them to do his bidding? Is there no dignity in labour? The one in heaven who created the eyes, can He not see? The one who created the ears, can He not hear? Is there no divine judgment after death again?

It is clear without any iota of doubt that the system needs urgent cleansing, but it must start with the one in authority, which is the government. You cannot plant maize and expect to harvest beans. Let us first look into the welfare and conditions of service of all judicial officers. Should it be possible for a judicial officer to be kidnapped or attacked by persons whose cases he is presiding over? Should judges be under any form of trepidation, any sense of intimidation or harassment by the same government that appointed them into office? Should a judge first think of the likely reaction of the President or the Governor, before he writes his judgment? Should judges be worried about post-retirement benefits, of the likelihood of being mocked by the same society that they served diligently or being humiliated by the same persons from whom they have had cause to reject tempting offers to compromise their judgments? Should judicial officers have cause to worry about the future of their children? We need a very urgent and robust welfare package for all judicial officers. And having done these, should we tolerate or pamper corrupt judges? Should they not be well monitored and audited constantly to weed off the bad ones? What is the gain for society, for investing so much in judges? How can we assure ourselves of the neutrality of judges in all cases before them? Should we not expect judges to do justice according to law, without fear, favour, affection or ill will, and to decide cases according to their conscience in the fear of God? And for us to deal ruthlessly with them whenever they fall short? Questions and many more questions, abound.

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.

CROSS-RIVER CHIEF JUDGE: OF IMPUNITY, HEROES AND LESSONS

Fiery human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN x-rays the year-long debacle surrounding the appointment of a substantive Chief Judge for Cross River State. While lampooning the ‘executive lawlessness’ that birthed the crisis, he argues that the quagmire threw up a few heroes and lessons

On February 8, 2021, the Honourable Justice Akon Bassey Ikpeme, was sworn in as the substantive Chief Judge of Cross-River State, in a colourful ceremony that was attended and watched live by many. It has been a tortuous journey, for My Lord in particular. How did it happen? On March 3, 2020, Governor Ben Ayade shocked the nation and the judiciary in Nigeria when he proceeded to swear in Honourable Justice Maurice Eneji, as the Acting Chief Judge of Cross-River State, to take over from Honourable Justice Ikpeme, whose tenure expired in acting capacity on March 2, 2020. It was an executive act that blew dust on the face of the judiciary directly, ranking as it were, as the greatest act of impunity, so far displayed against the most sacred institution of governance, by the executive arm. At all relevant times, the Honourable Justice Ikpeme was the most senior judge in the Cross-River State judiciary, but then she is a lady and she is from Akwa Ibom State by birth, although married to a citizen of Cross-River State. Honourable Justice Eneji was at the time next to her in the rank of seniority and above all, a man.

Governor Ayade had forwarded the names of Honourable Justices Ikpeme and Eneji to the National Judicial Council, for recommendation for appointment as the substantive Chief Judge of the State, with Ikpeme as the preferred candidate and Eneji as the reserved candidate, ostensibly based on seniority. The NJC in December, 2019, interviewed both candidates, whereupon it found worthy and recommended Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge, being the most senior judicial officer and she had no negative report whatsoever. Then commenced the various schemes and spins, targeted mainly at denying Ikpeme J., the substantive position, purely on the grounds of gender and her state of origin. It was then suddenly realized that she is from Akwa Ibom State, thereby putting her loyalty to Cross-River State in doubt. But all that has ended now, partly due to the role played by the Nigerian Bar Association, led by its dynamic President, Mr. Olumide Akpata.

My Lord Honourable Justice Akon Ikpeme started her career in Calabar and later got married to a Cross-Riverian. At the creation of Akwa-Ibom State, members of staff of the judicial arm were given the option to move to the new (Akwa-Ibom) State or remain in the old (Cross-River) State. Ikpeme continued to discharge her duties as a judge in Cross-River State, handled several cases and delivered judgments thereon, without any dent on her judicial career, till she rose to become the most senior judge in the State. The former Chief Judge therefore had no difficulty in recommending her for appointment as the Chief Judge. Then the executive arm of government under Governor Ayade began to put obstacles in her way, first with the composition of the State Judicial Service Commission and thereafter the manipulation of the State House of Assembly. On March 2, 2020, the Cross-River State House of Assembly had a stormy and rowdy session, in debating the issue of approval of the substantive chief judge. Through voice vote, they claimed to have rejected Ikpeme’s candidature due mainly to ethnicity. It was the first time in the history of Cross-River State that the most senior judge would be denied appointment as the substantive Chief Judge.

Now, section 271 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides that ‘the appointment of a person to the office of the Chief Judge of a State shall be made by the Governor of the State on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation of the appointment by the House of Assembly of the State’. The simple interpretation of this section involves some processes, but surely the most fundamental of them all is that the appointment of the chief judge is the responsibility of the governor. That process is commenced by the State Judicial Service Commission, which will interview and recommend candidates to the governor for appointment and the governor will in turn send the name of his nominee to the National Judicial Council. If he sends two names to the NJC and both are recommended as suitable, as was done in this case, he has to take a decision first, before activating the process of confirmation by the State House of Assembly.

The case of Ikpeme J, has brought to light the inadequacies of the 1999 Constitution, which many are taking advantage of to perpetuate lawlessness and impunity. The legislative houses of the States are all under the control and manipulation of the governors, such that no meaningful debates or legislative activities go on in those hallowed chambers, except in a few States. By law, it was not yet time for Ikpeme J, to retire from the judicial service of Akwa Ibom State and by swearing in Eneji J, her junior, as the Acting Chief Judge at that it, it meant that Ikpeme J, would take directives from and be under the authority of Eneji J. Seniority is one of the most cherished traditions of the legal profession, both at the Bar and on the Bench. And this is why section 271 (4) of the Constitution was enacted to uphold this age-long tradition, by stating that ‘if the office of the Chief Judge of a State is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office , then until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of that office or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the Governor of the State shall appoint THE MOST SENIOR JUDGE of the High Court to perform those functions’ (emphasis supplied).

From the clear provisions of section 271(4), it cannot be in doubt that the intent of the drafters of the Constitution was to allow THE MOST SENIOR judge of the State to be the occupant of the office of the Chief Judge, once a vacancy occurs. Even in other establishments outside the judiciary, such as the military, whenever it is the desire to appoint a junior officer to the highest position, all his seniors and contemporaries have to be retired compulsorily, as it will be absurd to retain them in service and expect maximum loyalty. It was therefore a game of chess in Cross-River State, since neither Governor Ayade nor his cronies in the Cross-River State House of Assembly commenced any proceedings in compliance with section 292 (1) of the Constitution, to remove Ikpeme J, in any manner known to law, the consequence of which was that she would have to continue to function in office as the most senior judicial officer in Cross-River State until she retires, notwithstanding the painful experience of her unwarranted persecution.

When all entreaties on Governor Ayade to do the needful fell on deaf ears, some human rights activists, led by the ever-militant Welfare Secretary of the NBA, Comrade Kunle Edun, filed a suit before the Cross-River State High Court, for judicial interpretation and application of section 292 of the Constitution. The trial Court upheld the objection of the State challenging the locus standi of the plaintiffs in the suit and the appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed, whereupon a further appeal is now pending at the Supreme Court. Now, part of the lessons in this whole saga is for all citizens to be conscious to demand for their rights, anytime there is a breach or likelihood thereof. Even though the court case was dismissed, it is on record that Governor Ayade cannot claim that the issue was a walk over for him. Activists in Cross-River State, Comrade Agba Jalingo, human rights lawyers, Femi Falana, SAN, Monday Ubani, Inibehe Effiong and many others too numerous to mention, rallied support from across the nation, to resist the impunity of the executive governor, to trample upon the judiciary, with such flagrancy. But today, we are talking about heroes.

While his men were out there slugging it out with Governor Ayade, Mr. Olumide Akpata adopted the carrot and stick approach, by constructively engaging Governor Ayade, the NJC and all other stakeholders, for a common solution, which culminated into the swearing in ceremony of February 8 instant. The fundamental implication of this selfless effort is simply that a people united can never be defeated. Even if another judge had been sworn in as the Chief Judge of Cross-River State other than Ikpeme, J, it would still have been a struggle won, for the people of Cross-River State in particular and the Bar and Bench, in general. The other hero of this struggle is the rule of law, eloquently championed by the NJC, the human rights activists and the NBA. Given the physical location of the champions of this noble cause, traversing Warri, Lagos, Abuja and Calabar was certainly not a tea party, given the security situation in Nigeria, alone. Not to talk of the financial implications, in convening and attending several meetings, filing and prosecution of the court cases and the concomitant effect of all these on their private practice. This is why they deserve the applause of all men and women of good conscience, as the laudable example that they have set will remain an indelible reference point to guide us in similar cases in future, which honestly, no one prays for.

In it all, commendation also goes to Governor Ayade, for allowing wise counsel to prevail and for upholding the oath of office he took, to respect, observe, defend and enforce the Constitution, without ill will, fear or affection. That is the way it should be, as there is nothing personal in the appointment of the Chief Judge of a State, being a tenured office that is purely statutory in nature. Should His Excellency have persisted, in defiance of the Constitution, to retain his preferred candidate in office as Chief Judge, it would have been a dangerous precedent, which even the court, as the major casualty, was not readily available to upturn. It is an irony of sorts, that the institution being defended failed, at the appropriate time when given the opportunity, to rescue itself, clinging as it were, to the discarded theory of locus standi, which even courts in foreign jurisdictions, have jettisoned in favour of local fishermen against multinational oil companies. It is rather unfortunate.

The Cross-River State House of Assembly also acted in a matured fashion, in reversing itself concerning the swearing in of Ikpeme, J., ultimately. Members of the CRSHA have only all opted to defend the Constitution, to preserve our noble institutions and to allow the rule of law to prevail, over the rule of man. But all of these efforts would have gone unnoticed but for the media, which kept the matter in the public domain throughout. It is gratifying that the NBA President has also opened up discussions with Governor Ayade on the fate of Magistrates in Cross-River State, who have worked for about two years without payment of their salaries and allowances. That will be the icing on this beautiful struggle, when Governor Ayade would demonstrate uncommon statesmanship, by granting unconditional approval for the payment of all outstanding entitlements of all judicial officers, who have labored and toiled to sustain his administration.

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. The views expressed in this article are entirely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect

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BREAKING NEWS: AT LAST, CJ HOSTS NBA LAGOS

  • JOKES ABOUT ‘FROSTY RELATIONS’
  • ROLLS OUT JUDICIAL REFORMS 
  • PROMISES GOOD BAR-BENCH RELATIONS

The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Kazeem Alogba today hosted the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch. The courtesy visit by the branch is coming after several unsuccessful attempts by the branch leadership to have an interface with the Chief Judge and exactly three weeks after a CITY LAWYER report on the issue. Both the Chief Judge and Branch leadership had however denied any frosty relations between them.

In fact, Justice Alogba reportedly joked about the alleged frosty relations between him and the branch when he observed that the temperature at the meeting was very cool, with the air-conditioning in full blast.

Justice Alogba, who led a high-powered team to the meeting, regretted that he had been unable to receive the branch leadership due to his pressing official engagements but assured that the interface would become more regular henceforth.

Below is a report of the meeting as posted by the Branch Secretary, Mr. Moshood Abiola.

The NBA Lagos Branch today met with the leadership of the the Lagos State Judiciary.

The delegation from the branch led by the branch Chairman, Yemi Akangbe along with members of the Exco and the Judiciary Relations Committee met with Chief Judge of Lagos State-Hon. Justice K. O. Alogba and the top echelon of the state judiciary at the Chief Judge’s conference room at the Ikeja High Court.

The Chief Judge opened the meeting with a jocular reference to the “alleged frosty relationship between the bar and the bench” when he observed that the temperature at the meeting was very cool with the air conditioning in full blast.

The CJ expressed his regrets that the meeting had not held earlier as had been expected. He stated that this was due to a plethora of official and circumstancial reasons. He said he was personally pained that it took this long for the meeting to hold and apologized for it. He promised that it would become a regular meeting.

By way of report, the CJ gave an update on the work done so far to ensure that the dispensation of justice resumes fully. He said the renovation work in the building at Osborne would soon be completed and it would house at least eight court rooms of the high court. He added that there were now two new court rooms at the eti Osa court house to take two more magistrates, one more court room at the Magistrate Court in Sabo Yaba.

The Honorable Chief Judge also said there will be four court rooms at the High Court level at the old juvenile court building in Sabi. He said all these courtrooms are expected to be ready for use by the end of March 2021.

In his remarks, the branch chairman thanked the Chief Judge for the warm reception. He stated clearly that there was no frosty relationship between the bar and the bench and the Lagos bar was happy to work with the judiciary. He again commiserated with the Lagos Judiciary on the destruction of several courthouse. He said the branch was pained by the devastating loss and was open to working with the judiciary. He reported that in the aftermath of the destruction the NBA held an emergency meeting and several measures and protocols were agreed on the way forward.

The Vice Chair of the Judiciary Relations Committee, Dr. Wale Olawoyin SAN in his submissions urged the Chief Judge to set up a committee with members from the bar and bench to serve as an avenue of feed back of issues as they arise. He highlighted some of the problems been faced by members in accessing the courts which included problems associated with filing and assignment of cases, scheduling of hearings and many more.

In his response the Hon. Chief Justice promised to look into the creation of the committee in a week’s time. He reiterated the work been done on E-Filing but said the problem was majorly from lawyers who sometimes cannot upload their documents and this causes a lot of delay. On late assignment of cases, he said he was actively looking into it and recently had to sanction some staff who were found wanting. He said he was also looking at many other measures to ease the system. He said he was happy these issues were being raised and he promised it would be looked into.

On scheduling of hearings, he said whilst there are guidelines laid down to be followed members of the bar were also not adhering to the guidelines as some would want to even be in court when their cases were not ready for hearing. He urged for patience and cooperation from the bar. He reiterated his directive that registrars must give 48 hours notice if the court was not going to sit. He urged that members of the bar should write if any registrar fails to do so.

On the issue of technology, he said it was a matter of finance. He commended the governor of the state for his support and understanding so far. He said even before the pandemic some courts have been sitting virtually. He said although there are still some impediments, the governor has been doing a lot to support the judiciary.

The Chief Judge however observed that even with the best efforts of the Judiciary, the reality of the pandemic is still a barrier to the full operation of the judiciary.

He thanked the Lagos Branch for the visit and hoped for many more of such. He urged cooperation from everyone and stated that all hands must be on deck.

The branch chairman in his final remarks suggested that there should be specific time allotted to cases each day so that lawyers don’t have to wait. The Chief Judge said this was already been done especially in his case, he promised that he would encourage other judges to do same as it is even in the interest of the judges to do so.

Mrs. Boma Alabi SAN gave the vote of thanks on behalf of the Lagos branch.

Moshood Abiola,
Secretary,
NBA LAGOS,
3/2/2021

It is recalled that the former Financial Secretary and Treasurer Emeritus of the branch, Mr. Phillip Njeteneh had while reacting to the CITY LAWYER report on alleged frosty Bar-Bench relations said: “At the last Branch meeting the Exco, learned seniors & members generally expressed their frustration at the cold shoulders given the Branch by the Lagos CJ over the offer to help and overtures of the Premier Branch over the recent destruction of courts & court facilities.”

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.

LAGOS BAR-BENCH RELATIONS: TIME FOR ALUTA?

In this article, PHILLIP NJETENEH, former Financial Secretary and Treasurer of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch goes down memory lane on the controversy surrounding relations between the Lagos State Judiciary and the branch

IS NBA LAGOS WIRED TO BE PERPETUALLY IN OPPOSITION IN LAGOS?

I am forced to ask this question due to recent developments which are recurrent decimal in our branch history.

At the last Branch meeting the Exco, learned seniors & members generally expressed their frustration at the cold shoulders given the Branch by the Lagos CJ over the offer to help and overtures of the Premier Branch over the recent destruction of courts & court facilities.

A few days ago the CJ of Lagos during the visit to the CJ by Exco of NBA Ikeja Branch the CJ warmly welcomed the Exco and openly refuted the allegation that he shunned NBA Lagos Branch or that he was having any grudge with NBA Lagos Branch.

Such frosty relationship between the Bar & Bench relationship (Premier Branch & the Bench in Lagos) is not new. During the winding down days of Bola Tinubu tenure as Governor the state govt gave out coaster buses to NBA Branches in Lagos State and the Premier Branch was effectively excluded from that largesse.

During the tenure of Fashola (a lawyer & a branch member) half hearted efforts were made at correcting this but it yielded no result. I say ‘half hearted’ because I recall as the Branch Fin Sec under the Chairmanship of Milord Taiwo Taiwo I was among the few vocal ones insisting we give this matter a more serious push than we gave it then & what we got was the result if our half hearted effort – no bus.

During the tenure of Mr. Okoli SAN the Branch was denied use of the Foyer for our meetings which gave rise to further denials. That same period the Branch was ejected from the small office space it occupied at the Court of Appeal Lagos Division.

It’s on record today that Lagos Judiciary gave a piece of land to NBA Ikeja Branch to build its Bar Center & I equally recall that when Ikeja Branch were about to commence work on the building project the then Lagos CJ gave NBA Ikeja Branch N10,000,000 (that’s the highest amount Lagos CJ has given any Branch that I know of).

If at all, Ikeja Branch either as a Branch or it’s officers have given Lagos State Judiciary or past CJs more headache than NBA Lagos Branch will ever give it, yet we suffer more from the actions and inactions of various CJs of Lagos.

Again, the Premier Branch has been more docile about the actions & inactions of the Lagos CJs than Ikeja Branch with Lagos choosing to engage or dialogue which often enough leads to nowhere. Take for instance the last increase in fees by the Lagos Judiciary. Our Branch chose to engage and at the end of the day while we were waiting for engagement the increase had taken effect. We all know what happened in Osun State under similar circumstances.

We have been enjoying the Big Boys status and it’s time we ask ourselves ‘is this big boy status hurting our profession/practice or promoting it’?

Yes we host the grandest dinners, we host the loudest parties, we engage rather than ruffling feathers, we call the shots but how has this helped us in the long run?

Are we better off?

Could we be better off?

Should we do things differently?

It calls for deeper reflections.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the blog. 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.

‘I HAVE NO GROUSE WITH NBA LAGOS’ – JUSTICE ALOGBA

  • CJ TO HOST LAGOS BRANCH SOON

The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Kazeem Alogba has said that his relationship with the Bar is cordial. Justice Alogba disclosed this yesterday during a courtesy visit by the newly elected Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch led by its Chairman, Mr. Bartholomew Aguegbodo.

An unimpeachable source who attended the meeting told CITY LAWYER that though the chief judge stated that he had read the report on alleged frosty relations between him and NBA Lagos Branch, he initially declined to speak on the matter, saying that the judiciary does not respond to social media reports.

Our source said that the chief judge was however persuaded to respond to the allegation by former NBA Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani who emphasized the significant role of social media as a contemporary source of information, adding that the CITY LAWYER blog is credible and reliable.

Turning to the allegation, Justice Alogba flatly debunked any frosty relations with NBA Lagos Branch, saying that he is merely a hostage to his tight schedule. Noting that he is always shuttling between Lagos and Abuja to attend to official matters and summons, the respected jurist stated that there is no deliberate plot to shut out the Lagos Bar.

According to our source, Justice Alogba emphasized that there is no reason for frosty relations between him and the Bar, given that both the Bar and Bench are working towards speedy and effective justice delivery. Justice Alogba noted that since the Bar and the Bench are working towards a common goal, it is expedient for them to ensure a conflict-free relationship in the interest of the masses.

He used the courtesy visit to pledge more support for Ikeja branch. While asking the branch to remain focused, Alogba admonished lawyers to work towards salvaging the image of the profession.

He noted that since misunderstanding is inevitable in every organisation, NBA inclusive, it is honourable for the association to be professional and mature in handling any internal misunderstanding whenever such occurs in order to save the profession.

Speaking on the enormous amount of records lost at the Igbosere High Court during the ENDSARS crisis, the Chief Judge informed members of the Bar of the several efforts by the Judiciary in securing temporary court premises.

He appealed to lawyers to plead with their clients with pending cases to exercise patience until the commencement or the completion of the temporary sites, adding that criminal cases are given priority due to the current coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that the chief judge may soon meet with the leadership of the Lagos Branch. A source who is familiar with the impending meeting told CITY LAWYER that plans are at an advanced stage for a courtesy visit by the Lagos Bar.

It is recalled that CITY LAWYER had in a report stated that there were anxieties within legal circles on the alleged frosty relations between the chief judge and NBA Lagos Branch. This was a major issue on the agenda during the last monthly meeting of the branch. The current leadership of the branch will bow out on June 30, 2021.

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.

HiiL Confab: Ezekwesili Urges Judicial Disruption, as Innovators Emerge

Transparency International co-founder and Nigeria’s former Education Minister, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili has opted for “judicial disruption” instead of reforms as a way out of the myriad of challenges facing Africa’s justice sector. Continue Reading