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Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Supreme Court New Legal Year : NBA Faults Process Leading To Onnoghen’s Retirement

Supreme Court New Legal Year : NBA Faults Process Leading To Onnoghen’s Retirement

The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro (SAN), said the NBA is concerned with the process that culminated in the retirement of former CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen.

The NBA said the process showed a brazen external intrusion and interference in the disciplinary processes of the judiciary in a manner that undermined its independence and, by extension, the rule of law.

Usoro said, “The process was not only contrary to the provisions of our laws but also degraded and desecrated the hallowed dignity that attaches to the office of the CJN.

“Lest we be misunderstood, the Bar is not suggesting that anyone, including the CJN, is above the law.

“However, there is a National Judicial Council (NJC) process that is prescribed by law for investigating and disciplining errant judicial officers”, he said, adding also that the process is put in place to preserve the dignity that attaches to the office of judicial officers and to secure the independence of the judiciary.

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The NBA president said side-tracking the laid down process, coupled with the condemnable media trial that is now the bane of some agencies, not only undermines the rule of law but desecrates the respectability that attaches to the office of the CJN.

While congratulating the new silks who have been found worthy by their superiors and peers of wearing the coveted rank of SAN, Usoro said, they were chosen from a large number of applicants based on their outstanding qualities.

Disturbed by the alleged abuse of powers and egotistic humiliation and degradation of lawyers and the legal profession by some law enforcement agencies, the NBA, he said is calling on members of the association to speak with one voice in this regard and that members of the Inner Bar, must join the NBA in taking the lead.

He said, the fight against corruption is best fought by tackling the incentives for corruption such as the inadequate compensation packages for judicial and public officers generally.

The NBA then, appealed to relevant stakeholders, to holistically review upward the compensation packages of judicial officers at all levels, sufficient to objectively eliminate any incentive for corruption in the judiciary and that the judiciary must not relent in ridding itself of corrupt elements, if any, in its fold.

“The internal self-regulating processes that reside within the NJC, pursuant to law, must be utilized and constantly oiled to weed out corrupt judicial officers who give the judiciary a bad name”, he said.

The judiciary, he said would, in the process, strengthen public confidence in the institution while keeping at bay those persons and agencies who demonize and degrade the judiciary.

Also in his speech, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), called on Justices of the Supreme Court not to bow to the pressures of different political actors, irrespective of any irregularity that might have occurred in the course of dispensing justice by different election tribunals.

“It is important that this court, as a final arbiter remains just and resolute in resolving all issues presented before it.

He said, in the last legal year, the administration of justice received boosts in the areas of Anti-Corruption Policy Drive (which successfully introduced zero tolerance to corrupt practices and entrenched integrity and ethical conducts in the task of governance).

“Let me at this juncture, reflect on the issue that has dominated the public space in recent times that requires our collective urgent attention, which bothers on granting of interview by Counsel during the pendency of a matter or after judgment has been delivered over his matter.

“I must state that in as much as the Constitution enjoins freedom of speech, it has to be within the context of ethics of our noble profession.

“Therefore. it is not in the interest of the Nigerian legal profession for lawyers, who are bounded by Rules 1 and 30 of the Rule of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, to grant interview disparaging the Court of law and its judgment, thereby eroding the sanctity of our judiciary”, the AGF said.

Speaking on behalf of the new SANs, Adedoyin Rhodes-Vivour, one of the recipients, admonished the recipients to conduct themselves well in line with their new rank.

She said: “As officers in the temple of justice, we are obliged to treat the courts with respect, dignity and honour and channel any legitimate complaints only through the appropriate authority and not conduct ourselves in any manner that will obstruct, delay or adversely affect the administration of justice or negatively impact on the perception of legal practitioners and our judiciary by the public, domestic and international.

“We must remember our obligation at all times to partner with the judiciary in maintaining an effective and expeditious judiciary and promoting any improvements in the administration of justice.”

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