Rethink a number of the standards for Conferment of the SAN rank – NBA President prices Supreme Courtroom
The NBA President, Olumide Akpata, in his tackle charged the Supreme Courtroom to do higher in bettering the Judiciary and in decreasing delays in justice administration and to rethink a number of the standards for conferment of the SAN rank.
Akpata urged the newly conferred SANs, and all members of the Inside Bar, to reside as much as the duties that include the privilege of the rank.
Under is the complete tackle
ADDRESS BY OLUMIDE AKPATA, PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION AT THE SPECIAL SESSION OF THE SUPREME COURT FOR THE CONFERMENT OF THE RANK OF SENIOR ADVOCATE OF NIGERIA ON 14 DECEMBER 2020
- It’s with utmost delight that I stand earlier than your Lordships at present to felicitate Your Lordships, on behalf of the Nigerian Bar Affiliation (“NBA”), on the 2020/2021 New Authorized Yr ceremony and to congratulate the 72 (seventy-two) eminent practitioners and teachers who’re being conferred with the distinguished rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (“SAN”).
- It’s according to the extremely uncommon nature of the yr 2020 that we’re marking the Supreme Courtroom New Authorized Yr in December; that we’re at present celebrating the elevation of 72 (seventy-two) SANs; and we’re additionally formally welcoming 8 (eight) model new Supreme Courtroom Justices to the extremely revered Supreme Courtroom Bench.
- The Supreme Courtroom occupies a essential place because the foremost and ultimate courtroom within the land. Contemplating that previous to Your Lordships’ appointment and swearing in, the Supreme Courtroom bench had been one of many thinnest in residing reminiscence, by way of the variety of Justices on the courtroom, and matched with the disruptions occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic which has certainly exacerbated the issue of delay and congestion of circumstances in Nigeria, there is no such thing as a doubt that Your Lordships’ appointment could be very well timed. It not solely eases lots of stress off the older Justices of the Courtroom however the appointment additionally comes as a supply of succour to 1000’s of Nigerians whose circumstances are pending earlier than the courtroom.
- It’s towards this backdrop that I want on behalf of the Nigerian Bar, to formally congratulate My Lords, new Supreme Courtroom Justices on their deserved appointment. The Bar needs Your Lordships a most profitable tenure, and we pray that the Almighty God will grant Your Lordships the knowledge, good well being, and sound thoughts to serve on this essential courtroom, whilst we pledge our cooperation within the fulfilment of your mandate of meting out justice to all method of males and making certain that wherever there’s a proper, there’s a treatment.
- Allow me to make use of this chance to tell the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Dr. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed CFR (“Honourable CJN”) and different Justices of the Supreme Courtroom that as a part of our efforts to strengthen the Bar-Bench relationship on the nationwide degree, the NBA will host the brand new Justices of the Supreme Courtroom to a dinner early subsequent yr. My workplace will focus on with the workplace of the CJN to debate the modalities of internet hosting the occasion and to agree on a mutually handy date in Your Lordships’ diaries.
- To explain the yr 2020 as a unprecedented yr is to state the plain. The yr will endlessly be recognized with the COVID-19 pandemic; a virulent virus that is aware of no boundary or territory and has up to now contaminated virtually 70 million individuals globally and killed about 1.6 million. In Nigeria, as at midnight of 13 December 2020, the pandemic had contaminated roughly 72,000 individuals, whereas claiming the lives of over 1200 Nigerians, together with Judges and authorized practitioners. Could their souls proceed to relaxation in peace.
- It’s not on a regular basis that non-courtroom litigators like me get the chance of addressing my Lords and having been given this golden alternative at present, I will even use it to say just a few phrases, not solely to the brand new Realized Silks but in addition for the good thing about my Lords.
- The New Authorized Yr ceremony affords us the chance to appraise the occasions of the previous authorized yr and their results on the justice sector and administration of justice; problems with Rule of Legislation; Independence of the Judiciary; regulation of the authorized career; good governance and different associated issues. It additionally supplies us a transparent alternative to rededicate ourselves to these values and ideas on which justice is based together with respect for the rule of legislation, upholding the Nigerian Structure and different legal guidelines, fact, honesty, integrity, braveness, the entrenchment of social and financial justice, and so on.
- The judiciary is of prime significance within the lifetime of any nation, and an impartial judiciary is essential to upholding the rule of legislation in a democratic society. The ideas of the rule of legislation, safety of human rights, offering the enabling setting for international direct funding and financial development and so on, can’t be sustained with no dependable, efficient and environment friendly Judiciary. This entails the supply of enough funding that the judiciary requires to conduct its enterprise, enabling the Courts to freely determine circumstances with out exterior affect, and making certain that orders and judgments of courts are revered by individuals.
- The New Authorized Yr additionally presents us with the platform to spotlight the welfare of our judicial officers whereas additionally calling for the instatement of true autonomy for this necessary however usually uncared for arm of presidency. Certainly, this yr will probably be no totally different as a result of the necessity for improved welfare of our judicial officers, in any respect ranges, notably their compensation packages and allowances, can’t be overemphasised. For such a essential arm of presidency, it’s a no-brainer that we should adequately remunerate our judicial officers. The combat towards corruption is finest fought by tackling the incentives for corruption such as the extraordinarily insufficient compensation packages for our judicial and public officers typically. The NBA appreciates the distinctive state of affairs of Your Lordships and the truth that the the Aristocracy of Your Lordships’ calling precludes Your Lordships from advocating on your improved welfare. It due to this fact behoves the Bar to proceed on this campaign in your behalf by advocating for the upward overview of the compensation packages of our judicial officers in any respect ranges, to objectively eradicate any incentive for corruption within the judiciary. It’s my pledge at present that we will not draw back from that noble accountability.
- On the identical time, we name on the Nationwide Judicial Council (“NJC”) to not relent in its efforts to rid our bench of corruption and to repeatedly deal with the difficulty of the self-discipline of judicial officers. In a just lately launched report credited to the Impartial Corrupt Practices Fee (“ICPC”) and titled “Nigeria Corruption Index: Report of a pilot survey”, the survey which was carried out by the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria, the mental arm of the ICPC ranked the Judiciary on the prime of the Nigeria Corruption Index between 2018 and 2020 and claimed that over 9 Billion Naira was provided or demanded and paid as bribe to judges by attorneys in Nigeria. This exhibits that there’s nonetheless lots of work to be completed in rooting out this monster in our justice supply system.
- It stays the place of the Bar that the course of prescribed by legislation for investigating and disciplining errant judicial officers and to protect the dignity that attaches to the workplace of judicial officers have to be dealt with by the NJC to safe the independence of the judiciary. The NJC should nonetheless proceed to utilise and always oil the inner self-regulating powers vested within the Council by legislation to weed out the few unhealthy eggs who give the judiciary a nasty identify. That is the one approach to strengthen public confidence within the establishment. Your Lordships are assured of our utmost cooperation on this regard.
- We additionally observe the problems surrounding the monetary autonomy of the judiciary on the State ranges following the issuance of the Govt Order No. 10 of 2020 by President Muhammadu Buhari and we name on all related stakeholders to make sure the immediate decision of all these points within the curiosity of the sleek administration of justice. We’re conscious that the dispute has been submitted to Your Lordships for willpower. Consequently, I shall say no extra on the subject.
- On a separate however associated observe, the congestion of Your Lordships’ dockets and the necessity for a complete answer to the downside of delay and congestion of circumstances in a sustainable method is of utmost concern to the Nigerian Bar and the Nigerian citizenry. Final yr, my predecessor Mr Paul Usoro, SAN acknowledged that Your Lordships have for a while now been burdened by and with political circumstances, and that because of the time limitation in respect of those election-related issues, Your Lordships have needed to prioritize these appeals, to the detriment of the opposite typical issues that stay the constitutional accountability of the Supreme Courtroom together with industrial disputes. Sadly, we nonetheless discover ourselves on this identical state of affairs in 2020.
- The NBA shall proceed to name for renewed collaboration between the Bar and the Bench to critically look at methods ahead and to constructively collaborate with all related stakeholders notably the manager and the legislature in devising efficient technique of actualising the wanted reforms to boost the justice supply system within the nation and guarantee speedy dispensation of justice. For instance, it shouldn’t be heard that in 2020, our courts are nonetheless taking copious notes of courtroom proceedings in lengthy hand. It’s not solely a serious supply of the delay and congestion of circumstances in Nigeria but in addition does have lasting opposed penalties on the psychological and bodily wellbeing of Your Lordships.
- If there may be one factor the COVID-19 has taught us, it’s that we are able to not afford to pay lip service to the difficulty of authorized know-how and the necessity to leverage using know-how to facilitate entry to justice in Nigeria. Fortunately, we have now seen modern options proposed by the Honourable Lawyer Normal of the Federation (“AGF”) in addition to the rules launched by the Nationwide Judicial Council and the observe instructions from numerous heads of courtroom on how the justice system should proceed immediately within the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We name on My Lords to make sure that these measures aren’t mere stop-gap initiatives and should represent a elementary a part of the justice supply system going ahead. The NBA hereby pledges its whole assist and readiness to companion with the courts to actualise these goals. Within the new yr, we will be in search of viewers with the Honourable CJN and the Honourable AGF to place ahead sensible concepts for the reform of the system of Administration of Justice in Nigeria.
- In his tackle on the NBA Annual Normal Convention earlier this yr, My Lord, the Honourable CJN lamented the submitting of frivolous circumstances by attorneys. It’s not disputed that there’s a important downside of delay within the willpower of circumstances in Nigeria, and My Lord the Honourable CJN is correct that a lot of the delay is attributable to the sheer variety of circumstances, together with many frivolous ones, which our judges must take care of. On this regard, allow me to name on My Lords to have a severe rethink on the difficulty of award of prices. It’s my conviction that the award of substantial prices will go a lengthy in direction of decreasing the incidence of submitting frivolous circumstances. Besides in remoted circumstances, the Nigerian judicial angle in direction of award of prices doesn’t appear to punish frivolous claims when they’re finally recognized. Reasonably, our courts are identified to award comparatively miniscule quantities as prices even in excessive profile industrial disputes.
- Whereas I perceive that the rationale behind the coverage of awarding seemingly nominal prices is to make sure that entry to justice isn’t prohibitive, prices should strike a steadiness and deter events from wasting your judicial time. For my part, important prices (together with authorized charges) should essentially observe every time frivolous claims come earlier than our courts. That is an efficient approach for incentivising constancy to contractual preparations. If completed constantly, then it’s inevitable that sooner fairly than later, events to industrial transactions will be cautious of commencing flimsy claims, elevating sham defences, or pursuing useless appeals. This, in flip, will enhance the general effectivity of our justice supply system, enhance commerce and commerce and, very importantly too, higher the lot of Nigerian attorneys. It is in this sensible that I should respectfully throw again the problem to My Lord, the Honourable CJN, and guarantee my Lords that the NBA is keen to assist this measure. I name on my Lords to right away situation a Follow Route on the Award of Prices. The NBA is out there to offer a working draft to Your Lordships for consideration.
- The NBA shall additionally proceed to assist all measures aimed toward correct case administration and scheduling of circumstances by Judicial Officers to curb pointless adjournments. We will proceed to name on Your Lordships to make sure that within the unavoidable circumstances the place the courts don’t sit, counsel are given enough discover as an alternative of the state of affairs the place some courts fail to tell counsel, a few of whom come from exterior jurisdiction and are pressured to take a seat in courtroom for lengthy hours solely to learn that the courtroom wouldn’t sit. This observe which pervades by means of all the courtroom system throughout the county ought to be deprecated and discouraged and there’s no higher authority to deal with this problem from a central place than Your Lordships. We strongly consider that correct case administration is feasible, and we pledge the assets of our extremely expert members to assist Your Lordships in addressing this.
- In the identical approach that the NBA below my management has promised to prioritise the continued skilled improvement of authorized practitioners, we additionally humbly name on Your Lordships to proceed investing within the progressive coaching of judicial officers particularly newly appointed ones. The fantastic thing about data is that it’s by no means ending and in an ever-changing world, characterised by steady modifications and transformation in various areas of the economic system, our courts should proceed to be geared up with the human and materials assets to satisfy the wants of a complicated society.
- Additional, one pledge I made at my inauguration was that the NBA shall henceforth monitor compliance with the NJC Guidelines and Process for the choice and appointment of superior courtroom judges strictly. It is because of this that I’ve needed to launch statements on the unlucky and protracted disaster within the judiciary in some States like Cross River State over the suitable particular person to be appointed because the Chief Decide of the State, regardless of clear provisions of the Structure on this regard. There are additionally related circumstances in another States of the Federation, and we will proceed to watch these circumstances and won’t tolerate any course of that’s inconsistent with the clear provisions of the Structure.
- Allow me to now flip to the brand new Silks. In congratulating them, it’s maybe pertinent to acknowledge that the occasions that heralded my emergence as President of the NBA, the primary non-Senior Advocate of Nigeria to win election to that workplace in over thirty years, had led some to query the continued utility of that rank. Could I take advantage of the chance of this auspicious occasion to guarantee my Lords, in addition to all realized Silks that it isn’t, and has by no means been, my intention to problem the Inside Bar, the members of whom I’ve the utmost respect for. Certainly, many attorneys might have points with the award course of and in some circumstances the abuse of the privileges that include the rank, however one factor that’s apparent is that the rank is one for which all attorneys have the best respect. It’s due to this fact my pledge that the NBA below my administration, will proceed to work with the Authorized Practitioners Privileges Committee (“LPPC”) to repeatedly improve the method of the conferment of that prestigious rank and to take care of the status and dignity of the rank and that of the authorized career generally. I’m proud to say that NBA contributed considerably to the method that heralded the colorful occasion that we’re witnessing at present.
- The Inside Bar, into which all the new Silks have at present been admitted, has important roles to play in direction of the entrenchment of the career of our desires. As I conclude, I’ll dwell on simply three of these roles. One space the place I consider that the Inside Bar should play a essential position is in serving to dispel the impression that courtroom room litigation is all there may be to the authorized career. To allow attorneys faucet from the goldmines that abound in various areas of this career, all Silks should add their voice in sending throughout this message and inspiring our younger attorneys to foray into various observe areas and introduce measures to assist them on this regard. This fashion, their choices for potential employment and earnings will essentially broaden, for the overall good of the career.
- Secondly, members of the Inside Bar should, as senior members of the career, make extra deliberate efforts in direction of mentoring others within the career (particularly our younger attorneys). The place and advantages of mentorship within the 21stcentury authorized career can’t be overemphasised and have to be taken severely by all of us. The NBA below my management is engaged on an institutionalised mentorship program for our members and we will probably be relying on all of you to assist drive that course of as a part of your dedication to bettering requirements and elevating the bar on the Bar.
- The third the place SANs should step up is within the remuneration of our attorneys. Though this isn’t restricted to SANs, it is vital that as senior members of the career, they set the usual and lead by instance. In latest instances there have been agitations for the introduction of a minimal wage for attorneys in non-public observe. Whereas we proceed to look at the modalities to finest obtain the general goal, our SANs and certainly all senior attorneys have to make sure that there may be appreciable profit for younger attorneys who work of their places of work each by way of pay and normal working circumstances. Whereas commending those that have been residing as much as this accountability, I name on the LPPC, below the management of the Honourable CJN, to make sure that the remuneration and dealing circumstances of younger attorneys is made one of many cardinal requirements to measure the contribution of attorneys to the event of the career and by implication, a yardstick for figuring out qualification for elevation to the SAN rank.
- In conclusion, on behalf of the Bar, I want Your Lordships the finest in this 2020/2021 Authorized Yr. We pledge to proceed to work with Your Lordships in defending the temple of justice and advocating for the independence of the judiciary whereas selling and defending the rule of legislation in all its ramifications. We proceed to want Your Lordships good well being, lengthy life, and divine knowledge to navigate the affairs of the judiciary on this new Authorized Yr.
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