*Call for reforms in NJC, NBA, appointment of judicial officers
Alex Enumah in Abuja
Twenty Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) have commenced what can be described as a rescue move to salvage the judiciary following the crisis of confidence that has been plaguing it since the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, by President Muhammadu Buhari over alleged failure to declare his assets.
The 20 senior lawyers are Ebun Sofunde, Kayode Sofola, Kola Awodein, Ademola Akinrele, Dr. Eyimofe Atake, Olufunke Adekoya, Oluwafemi Atoyebi, Yemi Candide – Johnson, Olasupo Shasore, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, Osaro Eghobamien, Babatunde Fagbohunlu, Wemimo Ogunde, and Jibrin Okutepa.
Others are Olumide Sofowora, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, Olatunde Adejuyigbe, Dr. Adewale Olawoyin, Adeniyi Adegbonmire and Oyesoji Oyeleke.
In a statement issued on Saturday, they noted that the rot in the judiciary in recent times was unprecedented and deserved urgent attention.
The senior lawyers, who claimed they were embarrassed and deeply concerned by the recent events surrounding the suspension of Justice Onnoghen, said they “feel obliged to make intervention for two primary reasons: (i) a recognition that the events which have resulted in this debacle is in fact a manifestation of and response to a deeper malaise in the administration of justice and justice delivery in Nigeria; and
“(ii) a concern that the crisis of confidence that is currently shaking the judiciary and the legal profession in Nigeria is unprecedented.”
While the 20 senior lawyers noted they didn’t intend to delve into the merits or demerits of the respective positions that had been taken by the different actors regarding the suspension of Justice Onnoghen, they said their focus, “Is to examine the underlying factors that have engendered or perpetuated the undoubted loss of confidence in the judiciary and the legal profession and to proffer suggestions for a much needed reform.”
Noting that certain facts were hardly contestable, they said that “there is a widespread perception that there is corruption in the judiciary and this perception is supported by anecdotal evidence.”
“Unscrupulous litigants and some complicit lawyers, including some Senior Advocates, procure judgments and orders by corrupt means.
“It is also beyond dispute that the system for self-regulation in the judiciary and the legal profession has failed”, they submitted.
To remedy the situation, the lawyers said they had mapped out areas in which they planned to collaborate with stakeholders in an effort aimed at achieving broad consensus on, and implementing a process that will lead to the review and reform of the following critical aspects of the justice delivery system such as: the composition, constitution, functions and internal controls of the National Judicial Council; the process for the appointment, continuing education and promotion of judicial officers; the process for the discipline and regulation of judicial officers; and the terms and conditions of service of judicial officers.
Other areas are: Judicial ethics, values and the relationship of the Bench with the Bar; the process for the appointment of lawyers to the Body of Benchers; the composition, constitution and internal controls of the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee; the process and criteria for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria; the roles and responsibilities of Senior Advocates of Nigeria as leaders of the Bar; the regulation and discipline of Legal Practitioners Ethics, values and standards of legal practice; and the composition, constitution and internal controls of the National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association.