The Chairman of Bi-Courtney Group of Companies and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr. Wale Babalakin has called for a critical and urgent review of the nation’s judiciary.
The senior lawyer, who spoke on ‘Judiciary in an Emerging Economy, Challenges and Prospect’, recalled that the Chief Justice of the old Western Region earned more than the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the 1960s.
He maintained that the judiciary he grew up knowing was totally different from what exists now.
“Where we are now is a melancholic decadence of a great institution,” Babalakin noted yesterday, while speaking at the ongoing 2016 Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch, with the theme ‘Judicial Independence and the Democratic Process.”
He decried the lost values and the lack of innovative ways of tackling issues prevalent within the judiciary, disclosing that the issues he identified about Nigeria’s judiciary in his 1986 doctoral thesis submitted to the Cambridge University are yet to be resolved.
“There have been no improvements; we still have unthinking responses to severe problems. Have you related the solution to the problem,” he said.
On complaints about the appointment of judges, Babalakin held that Nigeria’s judiciary would remain the same until efforts are made to attract the best individuals to the bench.
“Our court system will work better when judges have superior intellect than even the best lawyers” he said.
He added that a new method has to be found for the composition of the National Judicial Council.
He condemned the practice of promoting judges on the basis of seniority, noting that there are brilliant senior advocates of Nigeria who can be appointed to the bench as is done in the UK.
The senior lawyer, who also decried the poor quality of training available to young Nigerian lawyers, said this also needed to be urgently addressed.
“The legal training available today is totally unfair to lawyers,” Babalakin reiterated, while calling for more intensive research into laws on the Nigerian economy.
He cited the example of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) Decree, which has not been critically appraised to see if it achieved its objectives, while stressing the importance of the most competent people joining the law profession.
“Law must remain the exclusive preserve of strong intellectuals; we need to reform the law; we have to rescue our profession,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Chairman, Lagos Branch of the NBA, Martin Ogunleye, urged lawyers to save judicial time, adding that “we have to be creative and understand our position in this economic milieu.”
Two other lawyers, Funke Aboyade (SAN) and Deremi Durojaiye, aligned with Ogunleye, stressing that time is money in law and that Nigeria won’t lose anything by adopting latest technology in the administration of justice.