The Legal community in Nigeria trembled as the video of a Judge ordering the arrest of a lawyer in the open court for performing his duties went viral on the 21st of April 2016. For the first time, Lawyers are uniting on one side since the trial of the Senate President began. In recent years there has been an increase in the way Nigerian Judges address
Nigerian lawyers in court. The Judges threaten lawyers with contempt at every little but self-induced provocation.
Few years ago,a Nigerian Lawyer John Dong sued a Judge of the Federal High Court after the Judge unfairly cited him for contempt and detained him in the courtroom . He did not win the case but Lawyers commended him for a bold step towards saving the reputation of Lawyers. (Many Lawyers commended him in hiding)
On the other hand it is believed that Nigerian Lawyers are timid and have sold out their reputation before Judges. Many lawyers tolerate the insult because of the fear that they will lose positive recommendations when applying for Notary public, Senior Advocate of Nigeria or simply the fear of losing their cases. Clients watch helplessly as the courts wash down their lawyers. Only a few lawyers are standing up against this trend with the biggest challenge of having fellow lawyers condemn them just to please the Judges or plead with the Judges when they are supposed to remind him of his wrong doing.
On the 21st of April 2016, an amateur video captured a Judge as he ordered the police to arrest a Lawyer handling a case before him.
The high profile case that involves the Nigerian Senate president who is being tried at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false declaration of assets has pitched Nigerians on two sides. The ordeal of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki started when he went contrary to his party’s choice and became the Senate President with the help of the opposition. The Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar, refused to hear the motion filed by counsel of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on allegation of bias against the Judge. Umar dismissed the application asking him to disqualify himself from the case. “That motion as far as the tribunal is concerned is of no consequence; not worthy to be entertained and is hereby thrown away,” said Mr. Umar. Prince Ajibola Oluyede, Saraki’s lawyer, brought to the attention of the court, a motion filed on Wednesday, April 20th, 2016, seeking the CCT boss to disqualify himself from participating in the trial based on bias.
The motion contended that the continued presence of Umar on the panel of Tribunal offended the provisions of Section 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which prescribes that “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality”. However, when Prince Oluyede attempted to bring up the motion, Justice Umar repeatedly yelled at him to “Sit down.” After Oluyede demanded to be heard, Umar, upset by the revelations, called for police officers to throw out the counsel to the Senate President. However, Oluyede sat down on arrival of the police officers and maintained that he would not be intimidated .The prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, intervened and pleaded with Mr. Danladi to calm the situation.
Many Lawyers who admitted not being supporters of the Senate president have condemned the behaviour of the CCT Chairman in the interest of the legal profession.
A lawyer joked that if lawyers continue to shut their eyes to this trend, one day, Judges will be sending Lawyers on errands in the open court to buy airtime for them. Let’s hope it’s just a joke or the public will lose their already fragile hope in the temple of Justice.
Comments on your thoughts for or against will be appreciated.We want a robust conversation on this.