FHC New Legal Year: The Brilliant Speech of NBA Bwari Chairman, Clement Chukwuemeka that got Lawyers talking
SPEECH DELIVERED BY CLEMENT CHUKWUEMEKA SERVANT/CHAIRMAN, OF NIGERIAN BARASSOCIATION, BWARI BRANCH FCT. AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF 2019/2020 LEGAL YEAR OF FEDERAL HIGH COURT HELD ON THE 16TH SEPTEMBER, 2019 AT THE COURT CEREMONIAL COURT HALL, MAITAMA ABUJA.
Martin Luther King Jnr once said and I quote,
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“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals” end of quote.
Flowing from the above, I welcome all to this new legal year in Federal High Courts Calendar. On behalf of the Trinity Bar comprising of Abuja Branch (Unity bar), Bwari Branch (Capital Bar) and Gwagwalada Branch of NBA all in this wonderful city called Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The only thing that is constant in life is change; we sincerely wish to appreciate your lordship for the timeous innovations incorporated into the new rules.
Though despite how beautiful a rule of court maybe My Lords, inadequate man power and necessary working tools (and or instrument of work as it was described in today’s church service) will always frustrate the aims and objective of a well taught out rules. A 20 or more daily court list cases without state of the art technology to enhance recording of same will definitely delay the cause of Justice.
My lords, there is no doubt that the new rule of this honourable court has brought timeous innovation into the cause of dispensing Justice, such as in the area of thus;
Order 3 Rule 3(f) an affidavit of non-multiplicity of action on the same subject matter.
Order 3 Rule 9 (2) Additional requirements of
- A written address; and
- b. An affidavit of non-multiplicity of action on the same subject matter in an originating summons.
On issue of address for service: Order 4 Rule 7 which permits the parties to serve as a pointer to the process server in case of vague or difficulty of parties service address.
Order 5 Rule 2(2) an affidavit of non-multiplicity of action on the same subject-matter in petitions.
Order 6 Rule 6(b) which permits the service of court processes on the legal units of the Armed Forces, the Nigerian Police Force and any Paramilitary agencies or their officers.
Order 6 Rule 26 covered threatened violence in the cause of service of courts process by way of throwing or leaving same within the reach of the person to be served.
Order 6 Rule 31(2) gives liberty without leave of court to parties for services of court process within the federation.
Order 20 Rule 16 (2) which is to the effect that the judge shall have control over the duration of cross examination of witness in any matter.
Order 22 Rule 1(b) now additionally provides that the court shall have the power to dispense with the filing of written addresses where the interest of justice so demands. And
Order 22 Rule 5(2) also provides that the judge may guide counsel on the volume or limit of their written address.
Order 47 Rule 3(2) Registrar’s duty where the court is not sitting. Memorandum recording the parties present and the next adjourned date shall be endorsed in the case file by the Registrar.
Lastly, the area of E. filling as enshrined in Order 58 Rule 1-11 is a welcome development.
But despite the above innovations the issue on late filing, Order 7 Rule 2, an additional fee of N1000 for each day of default, this to my mind, having been in operation through practice direction has done more harm to access Justice than what it was originally meant to cure, hence need for urgent review so as not to debar and discourage concerned citizens from ventilating grievances through judicial means. When a poor defendant cannot afford default fees, may resort to self-help if judgement is given against such a person for non-compliance to the rules
The new year avail our Lordships another opportunity to reflect on the past years towards ascertaining with certainty a clear cut resolutions and commitment in standing firm to their code of conduct and oaths of office as enshrined in 5th and 7th Schedule respectively of 1999 constitution of FRN as amended with renewed vigour to do that which is good and just to all manner of persons without fear or favour.
Though according to Oscar Wilde, who observed that new year Resolution were just
“Cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account”
The judiciary (Bench) and in some circumstances the lawyers (legal Bar) should always know that our stand to the tenets of our callings and our way of lives builds public confidence in the independence of the courts, the integrity and impartiality of judicial officers, its processes that sustain the judicial system and encourages investments hence more legal briefs for the Bar and good commendation for the judiciary and the robust economy for the country at large.
Let me re state at this juncture that our society draws inspiration and hope on the body language/conduct of the court, it is the court that energies the rule of law, guide the rights of citizen and ensures that society is safe and conducive for businesses to thrive all over the globe, therefore Nigerian judiciary should not be an exception in standing firm to the rule of law.
The power conferred on the Judiciary by the constitution as enshrined in section 6 of 1999 constitution as amended, is enormous.
In Holy Book of Genesis chapter 1 Vs 26, when Almighty God said:
“Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth”
Our good God was actually referring to Judges. A judge can decree a thing and it will come to pass. Including taken lives of human being in a transparent manner, how on earth can the judiciary be intimidated, harassed, threatened by those whom God in his infinite mercy has bestowed their destinies, tenures, conducts, lifestyles, and their whole being, name it in the hands their hands (our judges)? Permit me to use this opportunity to re awaken the inner spirit of our lordships:
“The judges are the rightful owners of the roasted YAM and equally in full possession of the STILETTO (knife), they should choose whom to cut a piece as it pleases them”.
Also in Matthew Chapter 4 Vs 3 when the devil asked the son of God to change a stone into bread, having known the son of God was hungry after forty days and forty nights fasting, despite the temptation, He rebuked the devil and said that:
“man shall not live by bread alone” but for fear of intimidation, molestation, removal from office, death in some circumstances, some judges mere hearing from the executives to turn the stone into bread, they will not only turn the stone into bread, but will go ahead to ask which quality of bread the executive would want in the circumstances.
Also in QURAN chapter 4 v 135, “O you who believed, be persistently standing firm in Justice, witness for ALLAH, even if it be against yourself or your parents and relatives. Whether one is Rich or Poor, ALLAH is more worthy of both…” in other words Allah said we should be firm persistent in justice even if it’s against us or people we know or those in authority, both politician and non-politicians are equal before Allah.
At the dedication of the instrument of work (Court Rules) before God during church service of the legal year, reminded the judges among other things “To use the instrument for its purpose (Justice), To deliver Judgement that will reflect the agenda of God, Not to be under any influence that will tamper with Justice, even when a poor man does not have money, he should be treated with equality and lastly not to be ruled by the flesh”
My Lords, it is trite that throughout history, the inaction of those who could have acted when they ought to; the indifference of those who should have known better in all circumstance; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most especially from NBA, the Bar; that has made it possible for evil and miscarriage of justice in our country to triumph.
We must reiterate here that, the rule of law has evaporated in some of our courts; some courts especially in Federal High Court has been hijacked by the agents of the executive, courts are being used to legalize an illegality.
Our laws stipulates for an accused to be brought to court within 24hours, or 48 hours if there is no court within the radius, rather than the law enforcement agents especially the EFCC to obey these salient principle of law, approaches our courts for an order towards extending the lawlessness and impunity, our courts being an accomplice will graciously grant all their supplications, but when the defendants and or suspects finally obtains a court order to be freed, same government agency will flout and or disobey such order of court, within a short space of time, same agency comes knocking before the court it disobeyed its orders, same court will again for fear of intimidation grants its submissions; the circle keep going on and on for fear of coming after them at night, arrest or death, while the society suffer great loss, injustice and impunity.
Aderemi JCA, in ODUNSI Vs ABEKE (2000) ALL FWLR (PT.10) 1625. He Said and I quote: “To allow a flagrant disobedience of orders of court is to strike hard at the foundation of the rule of law and thereby unwittingly bring about Anarchy.” End of quote.
In RAY Vs MADUABU (2006) ALL FWLR (PT.3100) Page 1674, Per DONGBAM-MENSSEM JCA Said and I quote, “the fear of the unknown should arm rather than deter”
The Bar and the Bench should not be afraid of the antics of the executive even at the point of death, it is believed that:
“Death is not the greatest loss in life; the greatest loss is what dies inside us, preventing us from acting in the interest of Justice while alive”
- CUMBERSOME BAIL PROCESS IN FHC OF NIGERIA
The Federal High Court plays a premium role in the Justice delivery system in Nigeria and a major player in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
The Court fell short of its full implementation across the entire divisions in Nigeria.
The excessive imposition of bail conditions in Federal High Court leaves mush to be desired, where all defendants in a case are asked to bring a senior civil servant or a house owner within jurisdiction with certificate of occupancy and sometimes both.
By the provision of section 165 (1) of ACJA 2015..
“The condition for bail in any case shall be at the discretion of the court with due regards to the circumstances of the case and SHALL NOT BE EXCESSIVE”
Another very ugly trend is to ask the prosecution to verify and or profile the sureties, this not only offends the principle of Latin Maxim NEMO JEDEX IN CASUA SUA,
No man shall be a judge in his own cause, but offends God of natural justice.
If we may ask, why should the prosecution who is a party to a case do the work of a court? It is trite that the bail procedure is a process of court and not of the prosecution, and we implore the Acting Chief Judge to utilize all the well- earned respected experience as:
- Private legal practice between August to October 1986.
- Inspector of Area court in Benue state judiciary between 1986 to 1987
- As a Chief Magistrate in Benue state and An Arbitrator in contractual disputes between January 1988 to March 1996
- Acting Chief registry, state High Court Benue state Oct 1997
- Before assuming the exalted status of a Judge of FHC on the 12thday of Nov. 1998 and currently acting Chief Judge of FHC. He has indeed driven on all facet of rule of law roads and will be ready to take on this muster called agents militating against the fundamental Rights and Rule of law in our Courts. As any Excessive Bail condition is no bail and justice delayed is Justice denied.
In words of African foremost leader, Late NELSON ROLIHLAHLA MANDELA (JULY 18, 1918-DECEMBER 5, 2013) HE SAID and I quote;
“For to be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”
- BAR AND BENCH SYNERGY
The issue of unnecessary adjournment and the inability of the various courts to notify counsel in time of not sitting for the benefit of those coming outside jurisdiction should be addressed for the sake of humanity, recently we lost a colleague and about three kidnapped incidences while coming for cases in Abuja from outside jurisdiction, unfortunately these cases were adjourned without prior notification to the concerned counsel, in this digital era of where all lawyers are equipped with legal mail addresses and phone numbers, effort should be activated in making sure communication between counsel and courts is strengthened.
Another very important issue with due respect to my noble Lords is the issue of delay in assigning of matters, humane approach should equally be utilized by acting chief Judge in resolving such with concerned lawyers.
Cases should be treated equally and not discriminatory, the common trend of high profile cases such as political cases etc receiving first line charge treatment should be jettisoned as such practice is not only discriminatory but unconstitutional in its entirety. The goal of the judiciary should be to dispense cases effectively and expeditiously, we cannot continue to favour the executive and the politicians while the rest of the society continues to wallow in unreasonable adjournment and delay in justice deliveries.
The reason for our under development and decay in all facet of human endeavours in Nigeria can be attributed to our leaders, and those leaders are known as politicians, then why must their cases be of more importance above the common masses who depend on the quick dispensation of their cases for survival?
The Bar and the Bench must find solution to these quagmires and save this country from imminent danger of extinction.
Thank you MY LORD for the opportunity.
God bless the Bar and the Bench,
God bless Nigeria
Mr. Clement Chukwuemeka
Bwari Branch (Capital Bar)