Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ola Dan Olawale, Esq., has said that we all must strive to ensure that judicial independence is given a premium position in our nation.
Mr. Olawale made this remark while delivering an address on the occasion of the introduction of newly appointed judges of the High Court of Ondo State, this Tuesday, 21st May, 2019.
According to him, it is only when this is achieved that the labour of our heroes past will not be in vain.
ADDRESS DELIVERED BY OLA DAN OLAWALE ESQ., CHAIRMAN NBA AKURE BRANCH ON THE OCCASION OF THE INTRODUCTION OF NEWLY APPOINTED JUDGES OF THE HIGH COURT OF ONDO STATE THIS TUESDAY, 21ST MAY, 2019.
May I start this address by thanking My Lord Honorable, The Chief Judge of Ondo State, Hon. Justice O.O. Akeredolu and members of the Ondo State Judicial Service Commission. Throughout the selection process, I have witnessed firsthand Your Lordship’s appreciation of the vital role of the Bar in recommending the best amongst us as judges of Ondo State. No Chief Judge has ever consulted more widely or talked with the Bar to seek input about judges nomination and appointment. My Lord Chief Judge, I am grateful to you, and I am humbled by Your Lordship’s confidence in the Bar.
While heartily congratulating the newly sworn in judges, I wish to add to the admonition given to Your Lordships by Mr. Governor yesterday. My new noble Lords are now on the Bench with other distinguished judges. But your learned brothers are not judges who matter. Your most important judge is history, and history’s judgment is based not only on your ability of survival, but on your character and the values Your Lordships represent and promote. Start placing your values on the record of history. Your Lordships’ time starts now.
Socrates contended that a judge must do four things: “listen courteously, answer wisely, consider soberly and decide impartially”. The theory of the six-pack judicial virtues holds that judicial perception, courage, temperance, impartiality and independence are the traits indispensable for realizing moral quality in adjudication. ‘Judicial perception’ means situation sense, i.e. perceptual sensitivity to be able to adequately grasp and respond to the particulars of any given case, a vivid understanding of the issues to be confronted with. ‘Judicial courage’ is inner strength that enables judges to confront and overcome threats, fears, and pressure and to keep doing their virtuoso duty even if it entails repercussions, criticism, unpopularity, or loneliness. ‘Judicial temperance’ is a capacity of self restraint and self abstention in order not to be influenced by personal urges, needs, desires and feelings. The virtue of ‘judicial justice’ indicates that a judge is disposed to secure the values of morality as they are worked out in settled law and background values.
‘Impartiality’ means distancing oneself from their attachments in daily life when addressing a case. An impartial judge is disposed to recognise and ignore considerations stemming from possible interests, biases, passions, and subjective commitments. This of course is not tantamount to relinquish personal experience, commitments and concerns or to give up personality. ‘Independency’ is closely linked to judicial courage and implies that a judge is not influenced by external factors or pressures. This virtue is particularly called for in cases in which public opinion is rather strong or powerful parties are involved. The above six judicial virtues are mutually supportive. If a judge lacks one of these virtues, all of them are in peril. My Lords are well known to us, having been elevated from within our very ranks. The Bar is certain that all these virtues will not be difficult for My Lords to imbibe.
Permit me, My Lord to talk very briefly on
Judicial independence,. This is the ability of courts and judges to perform their duties free of influence or control by other actors, whether governmental or private. The term is also used in a normative sense to refer to the kind of independence that courts and judges ought to posses.
In Alexander Hamilton’s famous formulation, the judiciary is the ‘least dangerous’ branch, having “no influence over either the sword or the purse,” and is therefore least capable of defending itself against the other branches.
If judges have to go cap in hand to the executive, begging for their official cars to be serviced or replaced, then our Constitution’s promise of an impartial and independent judiciary will be at risk. If judges must calculate the potential cost to their careers by not meeting the quarterly demands of JSC as to number of judgments to be delivered, then the quality and legal reasoning in our courts’ decisions will be at risk. If the church and or traditional monarchs are allowed to have a grip over what transpired in our courts of law, then the rights of a free minded and common man is still at risk. If the politician places more faith in attaining power through election petition tribunals rather than through the ballot box and through the will of the majority, then our democracy is at risk.
We must all strive to ensure that judicial independence is given a premium position in our nation. It is then and only then that the labour of our heroes past will not be in vain. I will say no more on this, at least for now.
My Lord the Honourable Chief Judge, I have a humble petition on behalf of two categories of persons in respect of consideration, in future selection of men to occupy judicial offices. The first category consists of our learned colleagues in the Ministry of Justice. The second category consists of our female colleagues, who by reason of their marriage and service (both domestic and official), have become indigenes of Ondo State. I pray Your Lordship and the Judicial Service Commission to always allow these categories of persons some consideration in future appointments.
My Lords and distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for listening.
Ola Dan Olawale Esq.
NBA, Akure Branch.