*Urges Them To Lead Bar By Example In And Out Of The Courts
*Makes Clarion Call For Purification Of Profession
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, J.S. Okutepa SAN has congratulated newly inducted Senior Advocates of Nigeria on their swearing in by the Chief Justice Of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
Today, the 28th day of November 2022, the Hon. The Chief Justice of Nigeria will swear in 62 eminent legal practitioners who have been found worthy in knowledge and character to be conferred with the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
According to Okutepa in his congratulatory message made available to TheNigeriaLawyer, the Rank of SAN is a rank of distinction and it is reserved exclusively for legal practitioners who have distinguished themselves in this noble and the most honourable profession of learned men and women of character.
He said, “Your swearing today comes with it huge and heavy responsibility. For everything that has advantage, there are always disadvantages. With your swearing in, you become by operation of law, leaders of the Bar. You as leader must lead by examples for others to follow. You cannot afford to be crooked in your conduct both in and out of court.”
Okutepa also stated that Nigerians are gradually losing confidence in the legal profession and public perception about Senior Advocates may be on an all-time low. He therefore urged the newly inducted Learned Silks to use the prestige of their rank to rebuild the cracked reputation of the profession.
“There is no doubt that in Nigeria of today, the confidence of Nigerian people in getting justice in our courts and the Nigerian society is in the lowest ebb. Many see those of us who are Senior Advocates of Nigeria as the problem of justice in Nigeria. Many Nigerians believe that some Senior Advocates of Nigeria have been using their Ranks and positions to pervert and obstruct justice in our courts and in the Nigerian society.
Whether these perceptions are true or not is not what I want to dwell on in this message to you.But note that the perceptions are very high amongst the generality of Nigerian people. This is the perceptions on ground as you take silk today. As members of the learned and noble profession much more is expected from us for justice to be delivered and served in the society. As Senior members of the Bar and leaders of the Bar we must do everything to ensure that justice in its equilibrium is served our people.”
He also added that the legal profession is looked up to by the general citizenry to give justice to Nigerians.
He said, “That is why section 6 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria created the judicature for adjudication. To attain these lofty goals of justice, the legal profession was established. The legal profession is made up of Bar and Bench. It is this profession that people look unto for justice.”
Adding that, “Many things seem to be wrong with the way we as members of the profession ditched out decisions or proffered opinions that don’t seem to take into accounts the need to do substantial justice. The other day a colleague told me justice is relative. I feared at that statement. Justice is what is fair and just with undiluted purity. Anything than that is unjust and cannot be justice.”
Okutepa stressed that he looks forward to the days when lawyers and members of the Inner Bar in Nigeria, will decide to focus on attaining substantial justice than the current trends where the Bar and Bench have become jurisdictional experts without examining the merits of causes and matters in most cases.
“I am looking forward to all of us, the leaders of the Bar, to return to the roots of purity of the profession and to avoid doing anything or give appearance of anything that will lead to the perceptions that we have wittingly or unwittingly compromised the purity of the profession and the integrity of justice in Nigeria. As lawyers we must return the legal profession to its past glory where the Executive and the legislature will not dare the institution of justice.
There is no doubt today that as lawyers we throw away evidence on many technical grounds. We refused to see injustice even when injustice stared us on the face. We ignored facts and issues on the basis of many archaic and anachronistic terms that do not promote justice according to common sense and logic.
In all of these the society breeds insecurity and injustice. We have become jurisdictional experts, with technical victories to the prejudices of fairness and equity. While I agree that decisions are that jurisdiction is the blood and life whire of litigations and where courts lacked jurisdiction proceedings conducted thereby is a nullity, we need to be careful not to use this as instrument of injustice.
Whether or not a court has jurisdiction is a matter of law and decisions of the judex. We must do all we can to see that cases are heard and determined on the merit rather that being thrown out at infancy as we see some cases. Today only Electoral disputes whether pre or post elections get accelerated hearing in our courts. Other cases are suffering suffocation in the dockets of our courts. This is the state of things as you join us at the Inner Bar. Something has to be done.”
He further urged the Learned Silk to eschew technical complexities which affect the enforcement of judgements in the country.
“Finally let me conclude by saying the obvious. I am very sure even the blind can see this. And it is this. When judgments are given we again as members of the legal profession are the ones at the forefront of frustrating the enforcement by resorting to many jurisdictional obstacles. I think the Bar and Bench must come together to fashion out how best we can attain good justice in Nigeria. You have a part to place as leader of the Bar. Welcome to the Inner Bar.”