…My Lord, by whom shall we pass on your bribe? “Your Counsel is noble enough to know what to do”
…My Lord, by what channel, manner or form shall we get your own share across? “I prefer the night hour, I love it in cash, in Dollars, Pounds or Euros (hard currencies), ask me no further question, you shouldn’t be seen discussing with me, tell your counsel, he is intelligent and my very good friend…”
It is no longer news that there is corruption in the Nigeria Judiciary. In recent time Judges are now being arrested and treated like mere chicken for inglorious and infamous conducts.
For the profession that its nobility once knew no bound, prompting almost all families of this world to stake and give it all it takes to make sure at least one lawyer is produced within; suddenly, there seems to be a disconnect and break in the chain of social order now clamoring for vengeance. We seem to be at the end time of the lofty profession which can only be revived by celestial grace and mercy.
Late William Shakespeare, once said “Let’s kill all the Lawyers first…” Since it is from Lawyers Judges are made: the allegory beckons at the time when justice and fairness started to shed tears of sorrow and pain.
I have decided not to grant any television and/or radio stations interview and/or put up any write ups and/or blog or make any formal publications on the facts of subjects already placed before the court on issues relating to Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen’s time of trials and tribulations. From all indications, having read several of Hon. Justice Onnoghen’s Judgements; to me, he remains one of the greatest and finest brains in the Judiciary. But why this cup?
The Judiciary and the entire legal profession seem to be at its trial time. Allegations of bribery, misconducts, selling of justice to highest bidder, promotion of lawlessness and frustration of justice seems to be at its top echelon. The most cherished profession now survives amidst the fear of hatred, resistance and extinction-wish of the masses; hence, where shall we start?
Since the value seems far gone! The nobility seems far shredded! The place of honour, Forthrightness, integrity, graciousness, decency, decorum, rectitude, morality, conscience, scruples, principles, ethics, tenets, admiration, reverence, deference, veneration and values is shaken to its very foundation and existence in the legal profession. The hope of the masses which incidentally doubles as our means of livelihood is crying out for mercy.
In this era when Judges are now been compared with politicians and other regular citizens; whwere have we got it all wrong? where is that imaginary and concrete veil of honour, fear and God-like Aura that always dominate His Lordship presence? Where is the trepidation our judges once caused in the heart all men? At a time, be you anything, no matter how highly placed, when you hear the word court, your ears will tingle? Chai!, where is that ambience and psychological imbalance always subconsciously raised when a lawyer and the court is mentioned?
Nowadays, your cheater and law violator would be the one to tell you to go to court. Is it their fault or the fault of the actors and players to be met therein, since substance is left for technicalities and justice is left for injustice. How do I defend us?
I write in abundant of fear and severe pain for the profession I have cherished all my life. This was not how I was taught it is; this is not how I believed it is; and this is not how I know it to be. Where has these deadly stricken cracks been infested on the profession?
Now the famous Statue of Themis which is the symbol of justice in female apparel; which illustrates flexibility and brokenness. The blindfolded face; which illustrate law does not know and cannot see anybody, no matter your status; and the two scales which illustrates measures of evidence and proportion of punishment thereto; and the sword which illustrates the the two side sof law; mercy and punishment depending on your heart: the sense of all these are now altered.
Its new dawn; The Law can now see your person and your pocket, The sword is half-broken, the lady is now stiff because he already has his mindset before your matter is concluded…, the activation of the two scales are now based on what the eyes could see. that is our predicament. Though not totally.
The Honourable Judges in the dock? Their Lordships in the accused boxes? The Honourable Chief Justice of the Federation in the dock? No! No!! No!!! It is a taboo! Yes I am clear! It used to be a taboo that a god and decider / determinant of the fates of men is docked and accused of wrong-doings. It is a taboo that a Judge’s name is mentioned in connection to any stain and/or dirt; not to talk of a judge now being judged by another judge in human flesh. It is only allowed that God only can judge a Judge; not a fellow Judge. It is a notorious notion that anyone called a judge cannot make mistakes of morals because they remain the custos morale (The custodian of the Morals) of all. They cannot make mistakes of law, because all the laws of life, conscience and morals lies at their breasts.
Where have we missed it?
Late Lord Alfred Denning of blessed memory in his Hamlyn Lecture with the topic ‘The Road to Justice’, delivered in September 1955 stated emphatically that; “a judge should be beyond reproach or at any rate should have so disciplined himself that he is not himself a breaker of the law…” is this so in this era and time?
Sydney Smith over a hundred years ago noted as follows: “Nations fall when judges are unjust, because there is nothing which the multitude thinks is worth defending… isn’t this a reality of now? At least ADR is gaining ground and replacing the practice of law in the courts.
United States Codes of Conducts for Judicial Officers has five cannons which are all exhaustive in promoting the integrity and sanctity of the bench:
Canon 1: A Judge Should Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary
Canon 2: A Judge Should Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in all Activities
Canon 3 : A Judge Should Perform the Duties of the Office Fairly, Impartially and Diligently.
Canon 4: A Judge May Engage in Extrajudicial Activities that are Consistent with the Obligations of Judicial Office.
Canon 5: A Judge Should Refrain from Political Activity
By full analysis of the above canons which is replicated in Nigeria code of conducts for Judicial Officers. Strict compliance with same would not only inform a better and justice inclined country but a satisfied citizens all of whom are equal, free and of brazen respects for the rights of all.
What are the effects of enforcement of these canons in full in the United States? once you say or introduce yourself as an attorney or a lawyer, you can almost get away with anything, not to talk of saying you a Judge. The reason every average citizens in America would do anything to be a lawyer.
Let me convince you a bit; of about 45 Presidents ever elected in the history of United States, about 34 are lawyers, 22 had military experience of which 9 were Generals in the military. The Americans do all they can to vote lawyers and/or military men because they believe they are safer and better with them. They belief the combination of either or both have the greatest measure of integrity, discipline and courage.
What is now the result in that country where fairness and justice prevail? We all want to abandon here and go there, we want to give birth to our babies there in other to have their country’s citizenship… the rest is story. thank your Donald Trump for attempting to put a stop. since you realised they steal, spoil and destroy here and later run there and comport themselves as normal and reasonable men. thank you for attempting to save us from ourselves. Before you totally condemn President Buhari, think of the contents of the preceding paragraph.
Ask of what the Singapore, Ghana, China and several emerging countries did before their countries started to rise and enjoy the benefits. You think any act of corruption is treated with kid’s glove? In countries like China, if you are indicted for corruption as a public officer and eventually convicted, your head would dance on the pile. I mean, you would be killed instantly through the process of a summary trial. Are they not enjoying the benefits today?
A times I share the line of Plato that democracy is born to ruin. I testify for this part of the world that democracy is cursed! We are not sincere and mature enough to be led by ourselves without some measure of force. Rule of law is the escape route for lawlessness, shared indiscipline and resultant injustice. in spate of how many days, when Hon. Justice Onnoghen was invited, See how lawyers started filing and filing in a shameful manners, see the volumes of orders given and manner by which they were given and/or procured No wonder, See press releases upon releases, interviews upon interviews of matters whose facts are pending before several courts of competent jurisdiction. aint we noble with some sense of decorum anymore?
I’d always shared the thought of my father and mentor, Chief Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, that to achieve anything meaningful in Nigeria on corruption, the Rule of Law must be suspended. That position is firm and bold, because it is the reality.
It is here I would make reference to some line of wordings of the Immediate Past Attorney General of Oyo State, Mr Adebayo Mutalibu Ojo, where in expression of shared serious concern and soberness for the profession and all that is happening to it stated as follows and I agree to same in toto:
“In all these, the PMB/Onnoghen saga, the ultimate shame should be for all of us who are members of the legal profession, both the Bar and the Bench.
“If we have been very faithful and sincere to our callings, we would not have found ourselves in this mess and deep shit.
“All over the world, lawyers are called legal luminaries because they are defenders of the rights of their fellow citizens and in the forefront of promoting the rule of law.
“Here in Nigeria, we practice law majorly as means of livelihood. We are law merchants whose main interest and concern is profiteering at the expense of the litigants and our nation.
“We speak from both sides of our mouth depending on the divide where our interest lies.
“By now, disciplinary actions ought to have been commenced against all the Judges of various courts who issued interim orders against the CCT and in the same vein against the Chairman and members of the CCT too together with the Counsel who procured such orders.
“Going by the rate at which we are going, the legal profession is embarking on self-destruct.”
I align myself completely with his views and wish to add that since the return of democracy in Nigeria, lawyers have ironically enjoyed the sweetness of legal mercantilism that is why we cherry pick compliance with rule of law.
WHEN SENIOR LAWYERS BRAGS OF WINNING CASES WITH TECHNICALITIES
Recently, I read the write up attributed to a top lawyer and learned silk on how he won several cases using technicalities of law. I cannot but have this to say:
“Whoever beliefs in technicalities, Lawyers and/or Judges should continue to use his technicalities to defeat justice. We are all in this together since a situation of no justice will beget self-help and the outright breakdown of law and order from the revolting masses who had felt cheated over the time.
“I foresee a time so near to come for these senior lawyers who are always in the forefronts of frustrating prosecution of corrupt people, using their technicalities.
“Some says they belief in technicalities to let criminals escape punishments and many of the judges who had always said at all time and place that the time of technicalities is far gone and that it is now an era of substantial justice always have other reasons to go back to their vomits and change the law based on frivolities as procedure, irrelevance and that same seven-head dreded dragon, monster and enemy of justice called ‘technicalities’. This is believed must have been induced by other factors anyway… since law is no longer certain and there are several principles on same facts and law which we now read in several law reports on daily basis where shall we start from?
“I know as of fact that you cannot go Scot free no matter how highly placed and whoever you hire as lawyer in advanced jurisdictions as the US, UK and China where we look up to. The Lawyers beliefs they owe greater responsibility to the society than to an individual, they are often the one to advice their clients (honestly) to plead guilty in necessary situations. Anything otherwise if discovered, by regulating authorities amounts to a grave professional misconduct. Are their societies not better for it? And was this not the provisions of our own rules of professional conduct which had never been followed and/or enforced for once?
“Many revolutions and great time histories had been championed by Lawyers couple with fearless and conscientious judiciary. That now seems to be in the past. Everybody is now greedy and less concerned of other fellow men not to talk of the entire society.
“Lawyers and judges should not be social caterpillars but social engineers who plays great role in the creation and emergence of a better social order where justice, equality and freedom for all prevails.
“Do not let us ever, ever, ever compare the wrong doings of a politician to that of a judge who ranks as God among men. That Judge has the power to declare you dead, restrict your freedom for life, destroy your future career by mere pronouncements and affect your life as he wishes. A judge can do and undo, therefore not an ordinary man. That sit is meant for the noble and the spotless alone.
“Let these senior lawyers and Judges who believe in technicalities continue in their technicalities. May the prayers of the masses and sorrow of the victims visit whoever conspires against justice.” Amen.
MANIFEST EFFECTS OF CORRUPTED / TAINTED BAR AND BENCH
1. Respect, honour and the aura of grace is lost.
2. The society results to self-help and jungle justice when there are sense of injustice in the land.
3. You become an object of ridicule and suspicion.
4. Court Orders and judgements would be useless and would never be complied with or enforced; as being witnessed now.
5. You would build a lawless society where survival of the fittest is the order of the day; of which you might one day be a victim
6. You become hungry because you may never be consulted again on issues of law, since it may be useless. Your means of livelihood is therefore threatened.
7. A negative social order / caber would be created within the system and you would be gagged and limited as to the extent by which you can rise; no matter how brilliant you are, you would look like a dummy and above average fool.
8. You will be hated by mere look or introduction to the masses, because they will see you as their enemies and reasons for their pain. Why? when you use your technicalities free a self-confessed criminal who killed somebody’s father, raped his two daughters and shot their mother on the leg, remaining members of that family who were victims would never trust your profession again; the will nuture bitterness; as a matter of fact, they will hate you and lose their senses and perceptions about the society; and you may have succeeded in breeding an unintended criminal, who is out for revenges.
9. No legacy would be passed to oncoming generation
10. everything would be totally destroyed.
MY ONLY PRAYER AND THE ONLY PRAYER OF EVERY AVERAGE YOUNG LAWYER
I pray all days that God touches the hearts of the concerned senior lawyers and Judges, that they may not to finish up everything in this profession. May God rather give them the conscientious hearts to be less greedy so that they may leave some things called value, nobility and legacies for the coming generations.
Before I drop my pen, I believe the ousted / suspended Honourable CJN by his admission ought to resigned or at least step aside honourably like Kemi Adeosun, the former Minister of finance. that action would have been noble and enough to save us from the embarrassments, pains, dramas, trials and troubles the stuff had brought into the judiciary and legal profession as a whole.
Yet, I still pray, May this heavy cup filled with cries, tears and woes pass over; may the profession regain its respect, freedom, pride, dignity and nobility among men.
PLEASE NOTE: If May Lord had denied the allegations, my opinions would certainly not be thesame.
I congratulate and charge the new ag. CJN to be upright, noble in all and tower above all. Moreover, our judiciary needs serious reforms.
Thank you President Muhammadu Buhari for having the courage to save us from ourselves.
*** Richarmond O. Natha-Alade is a legal Practitioner and Principal Partner at
Sun Natha-Alade & Partners (SNATHAP) firstname.lastname@example.org