S’Court Pegs Juniors Appearing with Lead Counsel at Five

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Bulkachuwa sends justices out on rescue mission

Tobi Soniyi

As part of measures to save precious judicial time, the Chief Justice of the Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, has directed that lead counsel should appear before the Supreme Court only with five juniors.
Prior to now, there was no limit to the number of junior that could appear with a senior before the apex court.
The new directive would also reduce the number of lawyers in court and create space for more lawyers who have cases in court.

In a circular, the CJN said the large number of lawyers appearing in a case defeats the utilitarian value of junior appearing with a senior in court as many of those lawyers who appear have absolutely nothing to do with proceedings in terms of rendering assistance to the lead counsel in the course of proceedings.

This circular came on the heels of an embarrassing situation experienced in the open court where lawyers who could not find seat had to stand up while many seated on the floor in the court room.
Some senior counsel sometimes appear in court with as many as 30 juniors and waste the court’s precious time while announcing their appearances.

A senior lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) was said to have pleaded with the CJN for the enlargement of the number but Justice Onnoghen said the circular was out already and that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) had been notified. He said the circular might be varied later but that as now, it stood.
Also yesterday, the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, announced new measures to clear back-log of pending appeals.

Appeal Court’s Media officer, Mrs Sa’adatu Musa Kachalla, said Justice Bulkachuwa had constituted five task forces comprising of justices sitting at less -busy divisions such as Makurdi, Ilorin, Yola, Ekiti and Sokoto to reduce the workload in Lagos, Benin, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Abuja which are busier divisions.

In a notice to the affected justices, the President of the Court of Appeal said: “I believe we are now ready to face the challenges. They are to reserve two weeks in the fourth quarter whereby they will move to an identifiable division and preside over some of the pending appeals thus reducing the workload in the said divisions.”
The task forces have already achieved some success.

In the Lagos division, the special taskforce from the Makurdi division delivered 85 judgments while the taskforce from Ilorin division which sat in Benin division delivered 57 judgments in the fourth quarter which ended on June 30 2017 while that of Ekiti that sat in Enugu division delivered 38 judgments.

Justices from the Sokoto division on a rescue mission to Abuja division during this period gave 31 judgments in 31 while the Justices of Yola division trashed out 21 pending appeals in Port Harcourt division.
In addition to dispensing justice as members of the task forces, the justices also ensured that works at their various divisions did not suffer.
Meanwhile, the annual vacation of the Court of Appeal will commence on the July 17 and end on September 11, 2017.