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Falana, Ozehkome others blame lawyers, judges, politicians for undermining judiciary

By Yetunde Ayobami Ojo
30 August 2022   |   4:01 am
Human rights crusader, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and Joseph Otteh have blamed lawyers, judges and politicians for undermining the judiciary.

A judge’s wig

Human rights crusader, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and Joseph Otteh have blamed lawyers, judges and politicians for undermining the judiciary.

They spoke on the topic: “Consequences of undermining the Judiciary under democracy” during the 62nd yearly general conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) held at Eko Atlantic City, Lagos.

Speaking at a breakout session of the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Falana said the courts have not allowed lawyers to represent their clients confidently and judiciously.

He said the courts give attention to political cases than cases of thousands languishing in detention, adding that only cases of the rich and politicians are attended to speedily.

He spoke on the case of the deposed Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi. He said his case over deposition was filed, processed, assigned to a judge, heard and judgment given same day.

He noted that it is not possible for a common man to achieve that in the country. Falana urged judges to learn to manage cases before them, saying the procedure where cases of senior lawyers are heard first in court must stop.

“Our judges must learn to manage their courts, if we must ensure speedy dispensation of cases. I see no reason the provision in the Legal Practitioners Act that allow cases of senior lawyers to be heard first in court must continue.

“We must stop it and adopt more efficient ways of freeing the court docket,” he said.

On his part, Ozekhome said: “Nigeria is in quagmire, judges are afraid to deliver judgment because government is on their neck,” he said.

This factor, he observed, is one of the consequences of undermining the judiciary. He, however, said that the judges must be given independence.

For Otteh, the Executive Director, Access to Justice, a host of factors limit the functionality of judges in the court. He identified overcrowded dockets, escalating cost of accessing justice as a major barrier. He said the courts are not responsive enough to the issue of people in terms of having access to the judicial process.

“We are still paper driven, which is labour intensive and we are not prepared enough for another pandemic.”

Otteh frowned at delays trailing cases, attributing the snag to transfer of judges without adequate preparations.

“Our judges really fail to exercise the courage they need to display when they face challenges like impunity from the state.”

He said: “If the judiciary cannot faithfully exercise its authority, it would be undermined.”

Dr. Uju Agomoh, Director PRAWA, wants the judiciary to use its powers to stop overcrowding the custodial centres in the country.

She was particular about controlling the rate of reception into custody and duration inmates spending prison.

She wants lawyers to embrace the legal instrument for prison reforms in their legal practice to overcome the challenges besetting the correctional service.