I have just gone through a 17 April 2022 piece titled, “Senior Advocates Of Whatever” and credited to distinguished learned Professor and inimitable human rights activist, Chidi Odinkalu. I completely agree with distinguished Learned Prof, that the conduct of some Senior Advocates of Nigeria leaves very much to be desired, and that this is worrisome because it sets bad examples for younger lawyers.
However, I beg to disagree with the learned professor’s conclusion that, _”young lawyers particularly now aspire with an overwhelming sense of desperation to join this coven, safe in the assurance that it will sanctify them as witches and wizards of professional impunity. To fully reflect its current evolution, it may be time for the Body to upgrade its name to Body of Senior Advocates of Whatever (BOSAW)”.
First, I seriously doubt that reasons for young lawyer’s diligent aspiration to become members of the BOSAN include that being a member of the distinguished body will “sanctify them as witches and wizards of professional impunity”.
With due respect, I don’t think so. And I will give just one example to buttress my point. If being a SAN offers one an immunity from professional discipline, why then was Mr. Aondoakaa suspended by the LPPC and later declared by a High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, to be unfit to hold any public office in Nigeria.
The pronouncement of the apex court is well reflected in respected Prof Odinkalu’s piece thus: _’On 10 December 2021, the Supreme Court of Nigeria determined that “Mr. Aondoakaa “had, by his conduct, undermined and subverted the administration of justice and the independence, authority and integrity of the judiciary” and “ought not to be entrusted with any other public office at all.”’_ In my opinion, suspension from holding any public office is serious punishment and constitutes a sufficient sanction for Mr Aondoakaa’s reprehensible conduct in office as the HAGF. Note that the mere fact he’s a SAN did not stop the apex court or the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) from so proceeding against him. This is sufficient testimony that SANs are not immune from professional discipline for breach of Legal Ethics.
Second, there is no doubt that some SANs misbehave, but we should know that so many non-SANs equally misbehave. And just as there exist some SANs who are yet to be punished for their professional misconduct, there are very many non-SANs who have trampled upon the Legal Ethics with impunity. It must be admitted there is a general problem with discipline in the Law Profession in Nigeria; it’s not about SANs nor about BOSAN. In a statement made available to newsmen on 2 April 2021, the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) had advised the general public as follows:
“The attention of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has been drawn to the video making the rounds where the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) – Danladi Yakubu Umar, was seen, together with his security detail, allegedly assaulting a citizen at Banex Plaza, in Wuse Abuja. We understand that this citizen turned out to be a 22-year-old employee of Jul Reliable Guards Services Limited, posted as a security guard to the Plaza and who is now reportedly hospitalised.
Further, as a member of the legal profession, Danladi Yakubu Umar is expected, by the extant rules that regulate the conduct of legal practitioners in Nigeria, to maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and not to engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a member of the legal profession. Prima facie evidence available at the moment raise questions regarding whether such standards have been met. In view of the foregoing, the NBA shall through its relevant committee, investigate the circumstances leading to the altercation, and depending on its findings, will ensure that appropriate action is taken to address this occurrence”.
The news that made round on the same day was, “NBA to Investigate CCT Chairman’s Alleged Assault on Security Guard”.* Danladi Umar is not a SAN. Yet, till date, nothing more has been heard from the NBA or about actions taken by the NBA leadership on the matter. “Has the matter been swept under the carpet?” is the question on many lips, till date.
Anyway, the point I am trying to make here is that misbehavior in the law profession in Nigeria is not exclusive to members of BOSAN. I therefore respectfully submit that one shouldn’t rely on the unbecoming conduct of some SANs to brand the entire membership of BOSAN evil or misbehaving as such would amount to discrediting all SANs in Nigeria on account of the misconduct of only a handful of their colleagues.
Also, following from the example I have given above, if we should begin to look down on the rank/title of SAN or on all SANs, simply because of the misconduct of few of the holders of the title, maybe, then applying the same (albeit faulty) reasoning, the entire membership of the legal profession as a whole, should be condemned or discredited since there are many non-SANs whose conducts also leave very much to be desired, and who have yet to be brought to book before relevant professional disciplinary authorities. Similarly, we should also begin to see Nigeria as a country of criminals or terrorists simply because terrorism and criminality have pervaded the environment landscape.
What is more? Let’s even take specific examples in the case of Body of Professors in Nigeria: (1) The Guardian of 26 March 2021 reports under the title, “Court jails professor three years for electoral fraud” , that “an Akwa Ibom State High Court 2, sitting in Ikot Ekpene, has found a professor of Soil Physics at the University of Uyo, Peter Ogban, guilty of an electoral offence and consequently sentenced him to three years imprisonment”.
According to reports, the court had found him guilty of altering the results of the election to favour the APC. (2) Also, in June 2018, a professor of Accounting at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Richard Akindele, was dismissed for demanding sex from one Monica Osagie for better grades in exams. Recall that Professor Akindele was later on 17 December 2018, convicted after he pleaded guilty to a 4-count charge. (3) On 16 April 2022, the gazettengr reports that _”Another OAU professor busted for attempted rape, battery of female student”.*_ (4) Further, on 17 December 2019, it was reported in the Guardian that “The University of Abuja… has dismissed a professor and former Dean, Faculty of Agricultureture, Adeniji Adedayo Abiodun over alleged sexual harassment”. (5) On the same date, the paper reported, the same university approved the dismissal of Professor Agaptus Buzo-Chibuzor Orji of the Department of Science and Environmental Education for falsification of academic records and for aiding and abetting exam malpractice in the university. (6). On March 04, 2022, it was in the news that “Professor Richard Solomon Musa Tarfa, co-founder of orphanages for vulnerable children in Kano and Kaduna states, has been convicted by a High Court in Nigeria’s Kano State of forging a certificate of registration from the Kano state Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development”.
(7) On 20 August 2021, Daily Post reported that “The High Court sitting in Birnin Kudu, Jigawa State, has on Thursday sentenced Prof. Steve Uchella and Boniface Afifa Oru to five years’ imprisonment for forgery.” (8) On 10 December 2020, an “Akwa Ibom State High Court in Uyo has remanded a Nigerian professor, Ignatius Uduk, in prison for his alleged involvement in election fraud during the 2019 general elections in the state. Professor Uduk was arraigned on Wednesday by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for allegedly declaring false election results in 2019”.
The list is endless. Should we then rely on these few cases of professor-misconduct to draw a hasty generalisation and conclusion about professors, that the Body of Professors in Nigeria is a body of mostly criminals, fraudsters and sex maniacs? Noooooo.
Such a conclusion would be faulty, and especially tantamount to commiting a falacy of Hasty Generalization. Hasty generalization is a fallacy in which a conclusion is not logically justified by sufficient or unbiased evidence. It’s also called an insufficient sample, a converse accident, a faulty generalization, a biased generalisation, jumping to a conclusion, secundum quid, a neglect of qualifications or over-generalisation.
Hasty Generalisation fallacy is basically used to refer to making of a claim based on evidence that is just too insufficient or based on unrepresentative samples; drawing a conclusion based on a small sample size, rather than looking at statistics that are much more in line with the typical or average situation.
The gravamen of my submission is this: there are very many disciplinary bodies in the law profession in Nigeria; anyone who thinks that any lawyer, SAN or non-SAN, has acted contrary to the Legal Ethics, owes the profession a duty to report such erring member or members to the appropriate disciplinary body or bodies, and to follow up with such report in order to get the affected lawyer or lawyers subjected to relevant professional discipline and sanctions where liable. Rule 55 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007, is clear enough: _”(1) If a lawyer acts in contravention of any the rules in these Rules or fails to perform any of the duties imposed by the Rules, he shall guilty of a professional misconduct and liable to punishment as provided in Legal Practitioners Act, 1975. (2) It is the duty of every lawyer to report any breach of any of these rules that comes to his knowledge to the appropriate authorities for necessary disciplinary action.
In the meantime, we should not paint an entire community evil simply because few of its inhabitants are misconducting themselves. The BOSAN remains BOSAN, respected and distinguished in all ramifications, irrespective of the obvious misconduct of some of its members. The respected BOSAN doesn’t translate to _”Body of Senior Advocates of Whatever (BOSAW)”_ on account only of the misbehavior of just a handful of its members. Non-misbehaving members of BOSAN (and these are in the majority) shouldn’t be made to pay for, or to bear part of, the taint or ignominy caused by the sins of some of their colleagues.
Let those SANs who misbehave be fished out and punished in line with law and Legal Ethics, but let the BOSAN as a body remain a respected Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria and not a “Body of Senior Advocates of Whatever”.
By: Sylvester Udemezue
Udemezue wrote from the Nigerian Law School.
‘Supreme Court Is A Court Of Justice For Only High-Profile Cases’
The cry of the poor may not always be just, but if you do not listen to it, you will never know what justice is.
I have just gone through a report under the headline, “Ex-CJN Onnoghen Advocates Adequate Funding Of Supreme Court” wherein (according to The Nigeria Lawyer reporting on June 17, 2022), a former CJN, Hon Justice Walter Onnoghen (rtd) _”warned that unless the Supreme Court is adequately funded, it may soon at best be a glorified High Court”.
While I agree that the Supreme Court should be adequately funded, it is my respectful view that the court has not justified past funding.
With the greatest respect, the Nigerian Supreme Court appears to be the slowest Supreme/apex Court in the entire world and leaders of the Court appear to be comfortable with the prevailing situation; hence, they are doing practically nothing to accelerate, improve justice delivery in the court. A case (an appeal filed by an ordinary Nigerian, a low profile Nigerian) could stay pending at the Supreme Court of Nigeria for up to 10 to 20 years. For instances, permit me to refer to pages 1-2 of my recent paper titled, “Role of the Bar and the Bench in Accelerating Justice Delivery In Nigeria: Lessons From Malaysia”:
A distinguished Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Akajiugo Emeka Obegolu, SAN, was reported to have posted the following statement on Facebook on February 22, 2022: “Today, 22/2/22, a 2005 appeal came up for hearing before the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Counsel informed the court that both the appellant and the respondent are deceased. #Justicedelayed”. From the post, it is obvious that the appeal at the Supreme Court of Nigeria had lasted 17 years, the appeal having commenced in 2005. Who knows when the case was filed at the High/Magistrates’ Court. Meanwhile, when this author contacted Chief Obegolu, SAN, to confirm his authorship of the Facebook post and to get more facts about the case, Chief Obegolu advised that “the case was later adjourned to 2024 to enable the parties file applications for substitution”. A two-year adjournment to hear an interlocutory application! Earlier, on February 5, 2021, while delivering the lead judgment in a landlord-and-tenancy appeal case, Pillars (Nig) Ltd v. Desbordes, His Lordship, the Honourable Justice Emmanuel Akomaye Agim, JSC., had started with the following introduction: “This appeal was commenced on 24/6/2009 when the appellant herein filed a notice of appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal at Lagos delivered on 8/5/2009 in appeal no.CA/L/859/2006 affirming the judgment of the High Court of Lagos delivered on 8/12/2000 in LD/148/93 and dismissing the appeal against it. The notice of appeal contains five grounds of appeal”. The suit number shows that the suit was filed in a Lagos High Court in the year 1993, appealed to the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, in 2006 and later to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2009. The suit lasted 13 years at the High Court, three years at the Court of Appeal and 12 years at the Nigerian Supreme Court. A total of 28 years! The cited examples fall among the rule, the norm, and not exceptional or isolated cases’.
The Nigerian Supreme Court appears to be the most oppressive Supreme Court in the world, the worst violator of human rights in Nigeria and the most partial institution in Nigeria.
Let me explain, The Nigerian Supreme Court has by its actions/conduct classified cases that come before it into (I) high profile cases and (II) low profile cases. For the high profile cases, the Supreme Court accords accelerated hearing for very quick dispensation. For the low-profile cases, the Supreme Court has (by conduct) decided that hearing must be delayed and justice dispensation kept unnecessarily and annoyingly slow, in some cases until all litigants have died off and their successors-in-title substituted for the deceased litigants who had hoped to get justice in their lifetime. Example, the Supreme Court recently announced that all cases (all appeals) filed at the Supreme Court after 2015 would not get any hearing dates until after 2027.
Again, instances abound in which the parties (litigants) in cases pending before the Supreme Court die while the cases are still pending and being perpetually adjourned by the Supreme Court. Yet, all socalled high-profile cases filed at the Supreme Court receive instant hearing dates and accelerated determination and judgment, within one month or thereabouts of filing/appeal.
If this is not partiality, what’s then is the correct definition of partiality? If this is not gross violation of human rights of low profile Nigerians to access to justice within a reasonable time, then what is it?.
Again, I refer to my earlier observation in a published commentary titled, “The Federal High Court (Federal Inland Revenue Service) Practice Directions, 2021 and Questions of (Dis) Respect for Rule of Law, Human Rights and Access to Justice” (see: Lawbreed.blog on 15 June 202): _’Access to justice means being “treated fairly according to the law and if you are not treated fairly, being able to get appropriate redress… It means access to ombudsmen, advice agencies and the police law.
It means public authorities behaving properly… Access to justice [is] a human right that must respect and could be enforced. According to International and European human rights law, EU Member States must guarantee everyone the right to go to court, or to an alternative dispute resolution body, and to obtain a remedy when their rights are violated. This is the right of access to justice… Further on this paragraphs 14 and 15 of the the United Nations’ Declaration of the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law recognizes that access to justice is a basic principle of the rule of law in the absence of which people are unable to have their voice heard, exercise their rights, challenge discrimination or hold decision-makers accountable.
The Declaration emphasizes the right of equal access to justice for all, including members of vulnerable groups, and reaffirmed the commitment of Member States to taking all necessary steps to provide fair, transparent, effective, non-discriminatory and accountable services that promote access to justice for all.
Paragraph 13 of the Declaration stresses that delivery of justice should be impartial and non-discriminatory and highlighted the independence of the judicial system, together with its impartiality and integrity, as an essential prerequisite for upholding the rule of law and ensuring that there is no discrimination in the administration of justice…. Nigeria is a member-State of the United Nations….
If we agree that Access to Justice is a basic human right, to be enjoyed by all (including the lowly placed), then we are entitled to query Nigerian Supreme Court’s different, partial, and unequal treatment of cases before the Court.
Why, for example, should High-Profile cases filed in the Supreme Court in 2022 be heard and determined in 2022 while the Supreme Court keeps insisting that earlier cases (unfairly classified as “Low-Profile Cases”) filed in the Supreme Court, say in 2016 – 2021, would not and must not be heard until after 2027? Is this not a form of oppression, human rights violation and denial of access to justice.
With due respect, I submit that the Nigerian Supreme Court is the worst violator of human rights in Nigeria, the worst perpetrator of injustice and the greatest promoter of partiality and segregation in justice delivery in Nigeria!
Unfortunately, Nigerian Supreme Court Leaders are always seen in the public domain preaching to other people (to members of lower courts) a gospel of accelerated justice dispensation. What an irony! As an example, see my paper: Prolonged Justice Dispensation as the Bane of Nigeria’s Judiciary: Leadership by Example as the Cure (published by The Nigeria Lawyer on 11 August 2021) wherein I observed:
In my opinion, the Nigerian Supreme Court is the home of justice delay in Nigeria; other courts merely learn from it how to delay cases, grant Long adjournments and prolong justice dispensation. …the best way to preach to other people… is to be a good example of what you want to see in others.You don’t lead people by only what you say to them (it won’t work); you lead them by what they see you do.
True leaders are self-leaders. ..Leadership is an art expressed by the demonstration of characters worthy of imitation, emulation and inspiration. It is neither a title nor a position. The leader’s job is to show the way… you cannot tell anything about the condition of the way if you’ve not traveled on it yourself! Practice what you preach and let people learn from you. Be the light and source of inspiration that others see”
While the current Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Hon Justice Tanko Muhammad, has repeatedly expressed concern over what he called delay in Nigeria’s justice delivery system, one has not seen any concrete, practical efforts my Lord the CJN (as the leader of the Judiciary) is making or has made anywhere (beyond mere words and promises) to pull the justice sector out of the doldrums. Yet, stakeholders keep asking for increased funding for the Supreme Court.
Increased funding is good, but a question arises: How have ordinary Nigerians benefitted from past adequate funding of the Supreme Court? Or, you’re just asking for increased funding while the Supreme Court continues to sit on and suppress the basic right of ordinary Nigerians to quick and accelerated access to justice? The maxim that “Justice delayed is justice denied” means that if legal redress or equitable relief is available for a party that has suffered some injury, but is not forthcoming in a timely fashion, it is effectively the same as having no redress at all.
Hence, those who argue that “delay of justice is injustice” are right. The long-term effect is made clearer by Martin Luther King Jnr: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Besides, as Howard Zinn put it, “The cry of the poor may not not always be just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is”.
My conclusion is, with due respect, the Nigeiran Supreme Court exists only for High Profile Nigerians and for High Profile Cases and not for all Nigerians; it is a Court of Only High Profile Cases for High Profile Nigerians.
This is why only high-profile cases, involving High Profile Nigerians, receive due and accelerated attention from the Supreme Court. In view of this unjustified and reasonably unjustifiable lopsidedness against Low-Profile Nigerians, I respectfully advocate that High Profile Nigerians should contribute money to increase funding for the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Nigeria is not a court of justice for all Nigerians.
Put differently, the Supreme Court of Nigeria is a Court of Justice for High-Profile Nigerians and a Court of Injustice to/for Low-Profile Nigerians. Accordingly, let those Nigerians for whose interest the Supreme Court works, be solely responsible for the court’s funding!
By: King Onunwor With Reports From Sylvester Udemezue
Udemezue wrote from Nigerian Law School
Sit-At-Home: Gunmen Bomb Market, Burn Vehicles In Imo
Gunmen, Monday, bombed the popular Izombe market in the Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State, South, Eastern Nigeria.
The gunmen were said to be members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) enforcing the suspended sit-at-home order.
They were said to have stormed the market earlier to warn traders not to violate the order by opening Monday, according to a report by The Sun newspaper.
But the merchants defied the warning and opened the market for business, prompting the armed men to attack them.
The armed men set fire to two vehicles in the market before shelling the place, the newspaper reported.
Frightened merchants ran for safety during the attack.
Some of the shopkeepers suffered injuries in the incident.
“They came and threw a local bomb inside the market and everyone started running for safety. They (also) poured fuel into two vehicles and they all caught fire,” said a witness quoted by the newspaper.
IPOB, an outlawed group leading agitation for the creation of an independent Biafra state of south-east and some parts of south-south Nigeria, had suspended its Mondays sit-at-home order in preference for the order to be implemented only on days when their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, appears in court.
Despite its suspension, residents of the five southeastern states (Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia and Anambra) have been observing Monday’s stay-at-home order, mainly out of fear.
Some residents and motorists, including commuters, have recently been attacked in the region by armed men for leaving their homes on Monday and other declared stay-at-home days.
There has been growing insecurity in the southeast, with frequent attacks by armed individuals.
IPOB has been accused of being responsible for the deadly attacks, but the secessionist group has repeatedly denied involvement in the attacks.
The leader of the outlawed group, Nnamdi Kanu, is facing trial for terrorism.
Police Division Gets New DPO
As part of measures to improve effective service, the Rivers State Police authorities have posted new Divisional Police Officer to Nkpolu Oroworukwu.
She is Chief Superintendent of Police Edith Agborneme Udese
CSP Edith was former Divisional Police Officer, Trans- Amadi Division.
The new DPO who is barely two weeks in office has restated her commitment and zeal to sustain peace and orderliness in the area.
She enjoined citizens and residents of the area to assist her with useful information to fight crime in the neighborhood.
CSP noted that essence of peace in any given environment could not be over emphasised hence collaborative efforts to nip insecurity in the bud
She said as proactive measures on arrival she visited all stakeholders in the communities and held meetings with them.
“Security is key hence our people must collaborate with the police to ensure safety of the environment
“I must express joy over the receptive nature of the people.
“I can assure them with help of God Almighty that peace and social harmony will be sustained.”
“Gender can never be a barrier to our constitutional calling .I have done at Trans Amadi, hoping to repeat same here at Nkpolu Division,” she stated.
“God has been faithful in all we do, and will help us to silence all forms of criminality.
So let all those who involve in criminal acts surrender or face the full wrath of the law.
“As far as the police is concerned and under my watch, there will be no hiding place for criminals,” the new DPO further stated.
“I can assure anyone doing legitimate business that there is no cause for alarm. We are at their services at any point in time. I reiterate gender can never be the issue. If the likes of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister, late Dora and host of others can do it well and perfect no matter the position that tells you women have reason to whatever position,” she noted.
CSP Edith cautioned residents to be security conscious and report suspicious movements around them as various lines had been made available for easy contact of the Division.
She explained that every two weeks meetings will be held with various groups and relevant stakeholders aimed at strengthening relationship and sustaining peace.
She said residents should endeavour to put in place security devices in their houses to avoid negativity.
She thanked the Commissioner of Police, CP Eboka Friday for giving women opportunity to showcase their competency and service delivery.
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