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Financial independence, guarantee for rule of law, Okowa declares

By Monday Osayande, Asaba
05 July 2022   |   2:41 am
Delta State Governor and vice-presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ifeanyi Okowa, yesterday, declared there would be no effective rule of law in Nigeria

[FILES] Okowa

Delta State Governor and vice-presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ifeanyi Okowa, yesterday, declared there would be no effective rule of law in Nigeria without financial autonomy and independence of the judiciary.

Okowa made the declaration in his keynote address at the ongoing Nigeria Bar Association Section on Legal Practice (NBA SLP) 2022 Annual Conference held in Asaba.

He said at the conference, with the theme, “Legal Practice in Nigeria: Our Reality, Our Future,” that NBA leadership deserved commendation for its continued fight for the rule of law and for holding the executive arm of government accountable to the principles of fairness, equity and justice.

He said: “The courts and the legal profession must continue to adapt to cope with rapid changes like cross-jurisdictional legal issues and resolve disputes over business activities in the virtual world. They will have to address the impact of information technology on their work.

“My administration has and will continue to support the notion that judicial finance should be exercised free of interference by the executive branch of government in the same manner that the executive and legislative branches administer the funds appropriated for their internal operations.

“This is because there can be no rule of law without a guarantee of independence for the judiciary. Protecting the independence of judges and courts in the interest of the administration of justice includes giving them the substantial resources they need to fully perform their judicial duties properly and efficiently and to consider cases fairly and within a reasonable time as required by Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).”

He added that businesses would need competent lawyers to advise on domestic and international transactions, conflict of laws and commercial dispute resolution and urged Nigerian lawyers to specialise in established and emerging practice areas.

“I subscribe to the view that Nigeria does not have too many lawyers but too many lawyers doing the same thing. Many lawyers tend to focus on the obvious practice areas like a criminal, family, or land law.

“But there is an increasing need for legal advice in niche areas. These include international trade law, with the advent of the AfCFTA and the exponential increase in cross-border trade,’’ he said, adding that a society governed by the rule of law, must ensure that citizens had access to justice at a reasonable cost and speed.”

He noted that the state shares NBA’s ideals of upholding the rule of law, and disclosed that his administration recently submitted the Delta State Administrative Procedure Bill to the House of Assembly for legislative action.

Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, represented by Justice Abdul Aboki, in his remarks, said NBA had a burden to ensure that legal practitioners kept to the ethics of the profession.

He observed that the challenges of the legal profession were self-inflicted and lauded the choice of the conference theme, which, according to him, was meant to address the challenges facing the profession.

On her part, Chief Judge of Delta, Justice Theresa Diai, expressed delight in the partnership between the state government, the state judiciary and the NBA, saying that it was necessary for the development of the justice sector in the country.

Earlier, the President of NBA, Mr. Olumide Akpata, thanked the government and people of Delta for hosting and sponsoring the conference.

“The NBA-SLP occupies a very credible place in the association as members are engaged in dispute resolution practice as litigation practitioners and alternative dispute resolution practitioners.

“I commend the organisers for the choice of the conference theme and timing because of the critical role it will play in the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria,” Akpata stated.

Welcoming guests earlier, Chairman of the NBA-SLP, Chief Ferdinard Orbih, SAN, said the objective of the conference was to confront contemporary challenges facing the legal profession and design a roadmap for the future.