By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen has revealed that some lawyers in their attempt to get the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) engaged in the forgery of some court judgments to qualify for nomination for the rank.
Onnoghen said the forged judgment were part of the requisite conditions submitted to the Legal Practitioners and Privileges Committee for scrutiny.
He made the disclosure Monday at the opening of the 2018/2019 legal year of the Supreme Court and inauguration of new Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) in Abuja.
Although, the names of the offending lawyers were not made public, the CJN said that they had been reported to the police and were currently under investigation and will be prosecuted if found culpable.
“I have to point out the fact that in the just concluded exercise, some applicants were found to have engaged in dishonourable conduct such as forgery of judgment, resulting in their being reported to the police for investigation and possible prosecution. We have to know that if one is not for any reason qualified to wear silk as a judicial officer, he cannot wear it as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“I would like at this point to thank the distinguished members of the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee tasked with this assignment of scrutinising over 4,000 judgments, trial proceedings and publications, and at the same time conduct disciplinary proceedings on petitions received against Senior Advocates of Nigeria,” he said.
Speaking on the state of the nation, the CJN warned that those in power must not lose sight of the indispensable role of the judiciary in the fight against corruption, adding that the fight against corruption is not the responsibility of any particular arm of government but that of every citizen of Nigeria.
According to him, corruption or any other form of injustice thrives in a culture of impunity, adding that to carry out a successful campaign against corruption, “we have to fight with the culture of impunity which is an attitudinal phenomenon. If we allow and respect the rule of law, then there will be a drastic reduction in corruption and injustice”.
“As a democracy, occasion is guided by the rule of law where the constitution is the grand norm. And let me quickly add that there is no ambiguity as regards the role of the judiciary in our constitution,” he said.
Onnoghen assured Nigerians that the Supreme Court will continue to remain at the vanguard of the protection of democracy, human rights, rule of law and expeditious dispensation of justice.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) appealed to judges to brace up to challenges that would come their ways before, during and after the forthcoming general election.
Malami said as part of efforts to make the judiciary truly independent, President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to the constitutional amendment which now makes monies due to the judiciary in the annual budget to be paid directly to the heads of courts as part of efforts to answer the needs of the judiciary.
The representative of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Onomigbo Okpoko SAN, warned lawyers against resorting to distortion of issues and facts or manufacturing of evidence to confuse judges to get undeserved favourable judgment for their clients, especially politicians engaging in litigation wars.
Okpoko appealed to lawyers to always render advice to their clients no matter how wealthy against engaging in cases that cannot be supported with facts in law courts.
One of the new SANs, Sonny Wogu, who noted that the conferment was a call for greater service to the nation, urged lawyers to work hard and do everything to defend the integrity of the judiciary so as to ensure that justice is done no matter who is involved.
A total of 30 SANs comprising Olabode Olanipekun, son of legal luminary, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), and Lagos State Attorney General, Mosediq Kazeem, were conferred with the rank of SAN.