WORRIED by the delay in the appointment of a substantive head for the nation’s judiciary, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to comply with the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) to appoint Justice Walter Onoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
The President of the NBA, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud (SAN) made the call when he led a delegation of some leaders of the Bar on a courtesy visit to the Acting CJN, Justice Onnoghen in Abuja, where issues affecting the nation’s judiciary were discussed.
The NBA boss, at the meeting with the acting CJN, said the umbrella body of lawyers has constituted a team of senior counsel to hold watching briefs on behalf of association in the ongoing trial some senior judicial officers for corrupt practices by the Federal Government.
Mahmoud said members of the Bar should participate fully in all activities of the NJC, including hearing of petitions against judges, adding also that the CJN should support the removal of all constitutional impediments disabling the Bar from full participation.
“The corporate and financial governance of the NJC should be strengthened, made transparent and public friendly,” Mahmoud stated.
The NBA further reiterated its call for the appointment of senior Lawyers of impeccable character and intellectual prowess to the Supreme Court bench, explaining that appointment of Lawyers from diverse background will enhance the jurisprudential value of the court.
In his response, the Acting CJN noted that the Bar and the Bench are like Siamese twins and that the relationship between the two should be based on mutual respect and understanding.
Onnoghen said the judiciary cannot get the desired respect and confidence of Nigerians if the Bar does not support and respect the Bench and pointed out also that, “It is very disheartening that some lawyers now commit contempt ex-facia curia (in the face of the court) with impunity.
“You cannot send a child to go and fetch fire in a neighbour’s house and at the same time start praying for rainfall”, he added that, if the Bar disrespects the Bench, it is destroying the entire legal profession.
He said it is unacceptable for lawyers to constitute themselves to panels in electronic media to pre-empt, discuss and analyse judgments and added that erring lawyers will be made to face disciplinary measures forthwith.
Commenting on corruption in the judiciary, Onnoghen said lawyers should be circumspect in condemning the entire judiciary for corrupt practices and that the bad judges should be fished out and punished.
As a way of enhancing the falling standard of law education, the acting CJN said the entry qualification to study law should be second degree at the Law school, he noted contributes little to the training of lawyers because before a student gets to the law school, his character traits would have been fully developed.
The acting CJN welcomed lawyers to the bench, adding that most successful lawyers had in the past turned down judiciary appointments.
He said those who want to come to the bench should be driven by service and passion for judicial duties.
Onnoghen stressed that there is no need for the appointment of full compliments of justice to the Supreme Court bench, and added that the 17 justices that the apex court presently have are the largest in the world.
He said, “Full compliments of justices will not solve the problem of congestion in the Supreme Court. What will reduce the work load is limiting the jurisdiction of the court to novel points of law. Appeals to the Supreme Court should be subject to the leave of the court.”
The entourage of the NBA president include Isiaka Abiola Olagunju, the General Secretary of NBA, Chief Chris Uche SAN, Mrs Olabisi Shoyebo SAN, Aare Muyiwa Akinboro SAN, Mr J. S. Okutepa SAN, Ogu Tim-Menakaya, Murtala Abdul-Rasheed Esq and Mrs.Ifueko Alufohai NBA Executive Director .