wale-babalakin

…seeks better pay for judges

The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council, University of Lagos, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), has flayed all tiers of government for disobeying court orders and for not adhering to the rule of law.

He noted that if this trend was not checked, Nigeria would not “have the kind of judiciary it desires.”

Babalakin, who said this during the 2018 Annual Lecture of the Faculty of Law of UNILAG, also advocated better pay for judges.

He was the chairman of the lecture, titled, “The Rule of Law as Panacea for Peace, Security and Good Governance in a Democracy,” which was delivered by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.

Babalakin said the rule of law could not thrive in the absence of an independent judiciary.

He said, “We are still struggling to convince the entire society that it is to our mutual benefit that we adhere to the rule of law. I am relatively young in the system, but I have seen successive governments pay lip service to the rule of law. They emphasise the rule of law when they are in the opposition and capitulate as soon as they are in government. Without the judiciary standing firm under the leadership of justices including the current CJN, only God knows where we would have been as a nation.

“We have seen arbitrariness of the highest order. We have seen the total disdain for others’ rights that are totally untenable. We cannot have the sort of judiciary we desire unless we make it a collective assignment.

“Nigeria will not have the kind of judiciary it desires, unless the government begins to adhere to the rule of law and obey court judgments.”

Babalakin praised the 1999 Constitution, noting that it had placed enormous responsibilities on the judiciary “and has done it explicitly.”

He said until the 1999 Constitution was put together, there was no constitution that “expressly” conferred the right to investigate the legislature and the executive to ensure that they were acting in compliance with the constitution besides the 1999 Constitution.

He explained that judicial review was created by inference, not by express provision in the case of Madbury vs Madisson in the United States.

The lawyer and businessman said, “We have it as an express provision and so we must jealously guard it. Anytime the courts refuse or surrender jurisdiction lightly, the courts are not only violating the intendment of the constitution; they are actually avoiding the express provision of the said constitution.

“I commend, so far, the federal institutions. We still see that there is a serious semblance of the rule of law, no matter how weakened or threatened. The courts are still standing up and giving decisions, no matter whose ox is gored. I cannot say that about the state governments.”

Insisting that a democratic government must not only obey the law but also obey court orders, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said, “We have commissioned a study now on cases involving governments that have gone before the state high courts. The reports we are getting are terribly alarming. The state judiciaries are surrendering gradually to the overwhelming presence of the executive and the legislature of the states.”

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