By Alex Enumah
The Chief Judge (CJ) of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Justice Ishaq Bello, on Monday admonished Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) and older politicians in the country to pave the way for growth of the younger generations, which according to him, are the real leaders of the future.
Justice Bello gave the advice against the seeming acrimony that trailed the just concluded election of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) that produced a non SAN, Mr Olumide Akpata, as national president.
Speaking at a two-day workshop on ‘Trends in Criminal Justice Administration and Anti-Corruption in Nigeria’ the FCT CJ said that the outcome of the election should not be a source of rancour and disunity but one of encouragement for innovation.
Bello, who has few months as CJ of the FCT High Court, said he is “satisfied with the back seat so that they can grow and attain excellence”, adding that SANs should accept the outcome of the election and joined hands in building a united, strong NBA.
He however advised the new leadership not to depart from the old tradition of respect at the bar, adding that SANs deserved to be respected and the leadership must be willing to take advice from more experienced people.
Concerning old politicians, particularly those in the National Assembly, Justice Bello expressed disappointment at those who waste the slot of their constituents doing nothing and yet would not give room to young and vibrant Nigerians from their areas.
He said: “When I see aged people sleeping at the Senate or House of Representatives contributing nothing, when they have young people at their constituencies to promote; to go there and be vibrant and contribute, I feel ashamed.”
Speaking to young lawyers at the workshop, Bello admonished them to endeavour to prove their worth rather than become specialists in taking dates for matters in court for their principals.
In a welcome address, the President, Center for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS), Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), said the theme of the workshop, ‘Trends in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and the Anti-Corruption Fight’, was apt, as it brings to the fore challenges faced in realizing the goal of the Act.
He lamented that in spite of efforts made by various stakeholders in the justice sector, not much has been realized.
“I dare say that the legal profession has only been able to secure the conviction of only a handful of high profile defendants and politically-exposed persons. Our centre is monitoring about 25 high profile corruption cases in court. These have been stuck in the courts for years despite the provisions of the ACJA for speedy trial.
“In other words, the improvement in the criminal procedure law and the increasing number of lawyers and senior advocates on a yearly basis has not translated to a greater effectiveness of the criminal justice system, greater access to justice by the poor or improved justice delivery system in the country,” he said.
He went further to blame the increasing rate of anti-social behaviour and criminal activities such as banditry, kidnapping, insurgencies, corruption and resurgent anti-democratic and harmful tendencies which threaten democracy and collective existence on the inability of the elite legal profession to fashion creative solutions to the challenges of the society.
He said: “Unless the legal profession reinvents itself and return to original nobility and integrity for which it was reputed, the confidence of the majority of Nigerians in the profession will continue to decline.”
Prof. Akinseye-George while stating that the effectiveness or otherwise of the ACJA depends on the legal profession — judges, registrars, prosecutors and legal practitioners — added that: “The legal profession must unite to reverse the downward slide by the profession and the criminal justice system manifested in the palpable inability to conclude cases bordering on accountability initiated against high profile defendants and politically-exposed persons.”