* Says judiciary will always uphold constitution
* Says I won’t tolerate disobedience of court orders
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, on Monday inaugurated 38 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) with a charge on them to display a high sense of integrity always and be good example to junior lawyers in the country.
The CJN reminded the lawyers that the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria comes with immense prestige and greater responsibilities and as such should not be taken for granted.
In a speech at the inauguration at the Supreme Court complex Abuja, Muhammad however warned that the apex court would however not tolerate any conduct or attitude that could put the legal profession in a negative light.
Among the newly inaugurated SANs include the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata; wife of Supreme Court Justice, Adedoyin Rhodes-Vivour; and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, amongst others.
Muhammad congratulated the conferees, noting that it is a well deserved honour having emerged successful from among the 117 that applied for the position in 2019.
He disclosed that 80 applicants emerged after the preliminary screening, while the list was later pruned down to 38 after the conduct of specified screening carried out by justices of the apex court, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Body of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the general public and the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee, amongst others.
“As Senior Advocates of Nigeria, you carry on your shoulders a lot of responsibilities. From this moment, your behaviour and general conduct will now be publicly criticised by all those who come in contact with you. There is nothing like private life for you anymore, as everything you do or say will be openly displayed and dissected in the public domain.
“Watch your utterances, watch your actions and watch your company because you have already assumed the role of ministers of the court as you are now expected to assist the court to attain justice, equity and fairness in all ramifications.
“You must display enormous integrity, self discipline and high standard of advocacy as custodians of justice,” he said.
The CJN further advised them not to feel that they have arrived and thereby become casual visitors to courtrooms, warning that the leadership of the apex court would not tolerate any form of misconduct.
“I have stated severally that lawyers must desist from the practice of filing needless appeals at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. Let it be known that the Supreme Court will henceforth be unsparing in punishing blatant abusers of court processes.
“I need to state clearly that any lawyer who does not adhere to the time-honoured dress code of legal practitioners will not be allowed to appear in court. Such attitude is capable of eroding the prestige and respect accorded to lawyers worldwide,” the CJN added.
Speaking on behalf of the new SANs, Mrs Rhodes-Vivour, assured the CJN that her set of conferees shall always uphold the dignity of the rank of SAN as exemplified by their comportment and relation with the courts.
She added that they will continue to mentor young lawyers and lead them along the right path through their conduct and behaviour.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Also said that the judiciary under his watch will strongly hold on to the tenets of the constitution as the Supreme law of the land.
He said his administration will not tolerate the disobedience of binding court orders.
Mr Muhammad said the rule of law which is the bastion of every democracy across the world will be strictly observed.
“The rule of law must be observed in all our dealings and we must impress it on the governments at all levels to actively toe the path.
“The right of every citizen against any form of oppression and impunity must be jealously guarded and protected with the legal tools at our disposal.
“All binding court orders must be obeyed.
“Nobody, irrespective of his or her position, will be allowed to toy with court judgments,” he said.
He called on all to collectively show the desired commitment to the full enthronement of the rule of law in Nigeria.
“As we all know, flagrant disobedience of court orders or non compliance with judicial orders is a direct invitation to anarchy in the society.
“Such acts are completely antithetical to the rule of law in a democratic environment, and will not be tolerated under my watch as Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“We must work together to make Nigeria one of the frontline countries that observe the rule of law and rights of the citizens in all ramifications”.
He said that the judiciary under him is vigorously embracing technology to fast track it’s processes.
“We have automated our library with Liberty5 software, our classifications and catalogues are now done online.
“We have also subscribed to Weatlaw which has content of over 6000 law books and journals, and access to the library will soon be made available to everyone that is entitled to browse,” the CJN said.
The CJN said that during the 2018 to 2019 legal year, the Supreme Court entertained 1,874 cases of which 788 were civil, 262 criminal, and 65 political.
“Similarly, the court considered 759 appeals, comprising of 215 civil, 156 criminal and 388 political.
“A total of 324 judgments were delivered in the year: this score card is impressively fascinating.
“I attribute this tremendous success to the doggedness and team spirit exhibited by my brother justices and the general staff,”Mr Muhammad added.
He said the Supreme Court of Nigeria is the busiest and most hardworking Supreme Court in the world.
“It is on record that we work from Monday to Friday every week: on Wednesdays we do Chamber sitting to consider noncontentious matters while we deliver judgments and rulings on Fridays”.
He urged the public to embrace Alternative Dispute Resolution to free the courts of unnecessary overstretching of their human and material resources.
“As rightly observed, Nigerians are the most litigious people on earth.
“In every little disagreement, we rush to court, in every lost case, we rush to appeal even up to the Supreme Court”, the CJN declared.