Whenever we sit to discuss wholesale changes to the practice of law in Nigeria,it is important we discuss the issue of psychiatric evaluation of judges before they are recommended.
The attitude of some of our judges is simply unacceptable.’Corrupt judges’ is the mantra when problems bedeviling dispensation of justice are raised but there are other problems we must pay attention to.Problems like the conduct of judges in the court room.
A lawyer gets into a back and forth with a judge and the poor litigant is made to suffer with rulings made out of a desire to hurt the lawyer.We have seen a lot of judges replace the popular cautionary question of ‘how old are you at the bar’ with derogatory remarks like ‘you must be very stupid’.Some of the custodians of our temples of justice violate its sanctity more than anyone ever would.
A lot of us have come to accept the status quo where judges refuse to record a lawyer they feel is on the wrong path but i cannot understand a judge refusing to record an objection for the sole reason that they had already made up their mind to grant an application.What if i choose to appeal?.It happened to me recently and as such,i feel the need to call on my colleagues to rise up,for we as individuals,have a role to play in sanitizing the system.
The judge’s record plays a fundamental role in appeals and some have mastered the art of leaving out certain crucial elements especially oral testimonies beneficial to cases they have an ‘interest’ in.The position of the law is that affidavit evidence is filed with the registrar of the court or the trial judge challenging the contents of the court’s record as such cannot be done on appeal.
It is most desirable that such an affidavit be of any other person in the court room other than the litigant’s lawyer and that the affidavits filed be up to two at the very least.Lawyers must adopt the habit of doing a visual sweep of court rooms they appear in to check for colleagues they know or can trace as their cases are being called and also write their names on their diaries or jotting sheets.It could come in handy when a lawyer decides to contest the contents of the court’s record before transmission for appeal.The court room sweep must not only be visual but mental as well.
Only a bold colleague of integrity would pitch his tent with the side of truth irrespective of the possible negative consequences.
One of the reasons i chose to back Prof.Ernest Ojukwu SAN in his bid to become NBA President is that he intends to fight judicial excesses on so massive a scale,some of the units to be set up will accomodate unemployed young lawyers.This much i learnt when i asked for his antidote to the wave of the hand attitude regarding petitions against judges especially at the state level.
And as far as petitions against judges go,we need a new way of doing old things.It would help if petitions against judges are not only copied to as many people as possible-the NJC in addition to state councils,the Attorney General of the Federation in addition to those of the states and the national arm of the NBA but also if they are supported by affidavits of people in the know of such conduct.To elucidate further,a dubious court record is also a misconduct.
Magaret Mead said-“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,committed citizens can change the world.Indeed its the only thing that ever has”.
You and that man seated in court weild an enormous power in the pursuit of truth and justice.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano ,Twitter:@alaye26 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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A Report Of The Judgement Of The 16 Divisions Of The Court Of Appeal In Nigeria