SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER: The 2019 Legal Year Speech of Bwari Chairman that no lawyer should miss
NEW LEGAL YEAR SPEECH DELIVERED BY CLEMENT CHUKWUEMEKA, SERVANT/CHAIRMAN OF NBA BWARI BRANCH ON BEHALF OF THE THREE BRANCHES OF FCT HOLDEN AT THE CEREMONIAL COURT OF HIGH COURT-FCT MAITAMA
On behalf of the three branches in FCT, I welcome the Bar and the Bench to the brand new legal year of 2019/2020. We must appreciate almighty God for finding us worthy to be partakers of today’s event. We are not better than those that could not see nor witness today’s ceremony. We must use this opportunity to remember late Justice Ndukwe and late Justice Ashi, and other judicial workers and lawyers that have planned to be part of this year’s legal year, due to cold hand of death, they could not make it, may their souls rest in perfect peace. My lords, 1st Thessalonian 5:18 comes to mind at this juncture “in everything give thanks’’ also according to Quran Chapter 2 v 152 Allah Admonishes us “…So remember me , I will remember you, and give thanks to me and do not be among those who deny”
As the new legal year ushers in new ideas, new purpose, new vigor and fresh commitments towards the sole purpose of our existence and as mandated by the law and the society, which is justice without fear or favour to all manner of persons. We are convinced that this New Year in our legal calendar will further strengthen the Bar and the Bench
- COMMITMENTS OF BAR AND BENCH TOWARDS JUSTICE DELIVERY;
In achieving this, we must renew our spirit mind; purge ourselves from delay/ holdback mental syndrome, iniquity and undue interference from justice delivery. The good beginning of a task surely gives insight on a desired and timeous destiny.
May I draw inspiration from the famous statement made by our own, Pastor, Prof, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo SAN CFR, where he said, and I quote
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“I understand the law of sowing and reaping. It is a spiritual law that has tremendous physical implication.
Every time that we delay or frustrate what we can do today, leaving it till tomorrow, we hold back the future. We too, must reap what we have sown by experiencing delays” end of quote.
The new legal year should re-awaken the spirit of the judiciary to be reminded that decisions made today shall surely mould the shape of the country tomorrow; The seed of Justice planted today shall germinate and mature for the eradication of hunger in our land tomorrow,
The construction of justice mixed with rule of law during delivery of rulings andjudgments today will help to better our roads in Nigeria tomorrow.
The full implementation of the provision of law by our judges in exercising their constitutional responsibility today will go a long way in attracting direct foreign investment , stopping medical tourism and in general the growth of our economy tomorrow.
Therefore, the judiciary and in fact the legal profession should emulate the ideas behind the words of Joseph P. Bradlley wherein he said and I quote;
“Society cannot exist without rule of law. Law is the bond of society; that which makes it, that which preserves it, and that which keeps it together. It is, in fact, the essence of civil society” end of quote.
My Lords, Distinguished Colleagues, the recent happenings in the society we found ourselves has further blurred our sight on the conviction that majority of our citizens we owe a lot, do not appreciate any longer the role of stabilization which the bench and bar play in maintaining a peaceful and stable society. People nowadays see the bench as an appendage of the executive; hence they refuse to appreciate the clear separation of power in the constitution which has made the judiciary as the third arm of Government with enormous powers, which can be likened to the powers given to man by God in the Holy book of Genesis Chapter 1:26
“Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness, 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 our Judges. How on earth could a judge be intimidated, harassed, threatened by those God in his infinite mercy has graciously bestowed dominion over their tenures, lifestyle just name it. May I remind some Judges and some legal practitioners at this point that we are the reason for the Economic hardship in Nigeria, we are responsible for the disappearance of investors, we are responsible for the bad roads and high rate of kidnapping on our major roads and towns, above all we are accomplices’ to the non-adherence to the rule of law by the other arms of government in total disobedience as instructed the judges by God in 2nd Chronicle 19 vs 4-7. “God enjoined judges to judge with fear of God….” and Quoran 4 vs 135, “ALLAH enjoined us to be persistent and firm in Justice even if it is against yourself, friends or Parents”
We do not only disobey God, but we now facilitate illegality with impunity. The evaporation of rule of law in some courts desires spiritual cleansing. How do we tell God on the last day that the rule book said, an accused person must be brought to court within 24 hours, or 48 hours in case of non-availability of court within radius, rather than obey this simple unambiguous legislation, a lawyer in the clothe of prosecutor approaches a lawyer in a dress of a judge to seek further extension of days to detain the innocent citizen, the judge being an accomplice grants all the supplications presented. When the innocent citizen approaches same judge and his prayer is answered for his release, the same prosecutor will flout the order of court, but within short space of time, same Prosecutor comes in same court it disobeyed its orders for another prayers, same court entertains the agent of Government and grants same without asking if the last court order from same court was obeyed!!. How will the judiciary be the last hope of a common man and the restorer of Nigeria Economy if we continue to encourage this unethical behavior? Bail which is provided in Section 165 (1) of ACJA 2015 not to be excessive when exercising Courts discretion has become a tool for conviction without the defendants being found guilty. How do we explain to our children unborn that, there was a time a court granted bail to a defendant and in one hand take the defendants freedom of movement, how will investors come to such society? How will the economy of such a society grow? The Bar and Bench should endeavor to help this country by standing firm and deliver justice as it should be without any fear or favor.
In the views of late Legal compass late Hon, Justice Oputa JSC wherein he said and I quote;
“The Judiciary is the mighty fortress against tyrannous and oppressive laws. It is the judiciary that has to ensure that the state is subject to the law, that the government respects the rights of the individual under the law….. The courts have to ensure that the administration (of any government) conforms to the law; they also have to adjudicate upon the legality of the exercise of executive powers. The importance of the judiciary in a free and democratic society cannot therefore be overestimated” end of quote.
My Lords, the new legal Year has made it possible for the Bar and Bench to further cement their relationship and oneness in all facets of human endeavors. It is a union that has been ordained by history and God, and no political affiliation and nearness to the corridor of the executive should put it asunder.
The immortal and memorable words of Crampton J Comes handy when he said and I quote.
“This court in which we sit is a temple of Justice, and the advocates at the bar, as well as the Judge on the bench are equally ministers in that temple. The object of all, equally should be the attainment of justice; now justice is only to be reached through the ascertainment of the truth and the instrument which our law presents to us for the ascertainment of the truth and falsehood of a criminous charge is the trial by jury; the trial is the process by which we endeavour to find out the truth. Slow and laborious and perplexed and doubtful in its issue that pursuit often proves; but we are all- Judges, Jurors, Advocates and Attorneys together concerned in this search for truth; the pursuit is a noble one, and those are honoured who are the instruments engaged in it.
The infirmity of human nature, and the strength of human passion, may lead us to take false views, and sometimes to embarrass and retard rather than to assist in attaining the great object; the temperament, the imagination and the feelings may all mislead us in the chase but let us never forget our high vocation as ministers of justice and interpreters of the law; let us never forget that the advancement of justice and the ascertainment of truth are higher objects and nobler results than any which in this place we can propose to ourselves. Let us never forget the Christian maxim; “that we should not do evil that good may come of it.” I would say to the advocate upon this subject- let your zeal be as warm as your hearts blood, but let it be tempered with discretion and self-respect; let your independence be firm uncompromising, but let it be chastened by personal humility, let your love for liberty amount to a passion, but let it not appear to be a cloak for maliciousness” end of quote.
However, due to one reason or the other, some of us have forgotten that we have code of conduct same as judges- in the words of Lord Denning MR in the case of RONDEL Vs WORSLEY (1967) IQBD 443 wherein he wrote;
“Counsel as an advocate is a minister in the temple of justice, he must not consciously mis-state facts, he must keep to his code of honour, if he breaks it, and he is offending against the rules of the profession and is subject to its discipline” end of quotes
These days some lawyers breach the code, Rule 39 and 46(2) A-C of RPC yet nothing happens to them.
It is noteworthy that judiciary is encumbered by rules and judicial etiquette and finds itself in the difficult situation to respond and react to the dagger blow assault unleashed against its officers by deliberate misinformation, misrepresentation and misinterpretation of its judicial roles. We must say the judiciary should have our sympathy the way it is being painted in the public square. Nevertheless, our comfort is in the saying of Prof Adebayo William in the Remain of the Last Emperor. He noted that ‘ Evil may triumph over good for long time, but evil will never be vindicate’. To this end the Bar remains the mouth piece of the bench to speak truth to power where the rule of law is mortgaged and the justice is silenced by the power that be. It is time all hands should be on deck to salvage the judiciary from unwarranted desecration and harassment.
4.COURT INFRASTRUCTURE, BAR BENCH SYNERGY AND LAWYERS EXPECTATION IN THE NEW YEAR.
a. The absence of good washroom (toilet facility) in our courts in the FCT is of great concern to litigants and lawyers. Our senior lawyers in this regards should give back to judiciary/society by emulating their colleague Mr. Ebun –Olu Adegboruwa, SAN that single handedly renovated the Public conveniences in FHC Lagos Division. The Court facility Inspection committee of NBA Bwari Branch will champion this cause by reaching out to the interested seniors and lawyers in general after due clearance from the Authority concerned. I hope our sisters branches will buy into this and see how to make courts accessible and conducive to us, judicial staff and the litigants as well. Upgrading of courts facility is sine qua non particularly where ICT should be deployed to enhance the justice administration and access to justice in our courts. Effort should equally be made towards free and unhindered movement of our physically challenged colleagues to access court facility in all courts building as there is none except in maitama high courts.
b. Quick Assignment of new cases and re-assignment of old cases due to elevation, retirement, transfer or death of judges/ magistrate. It will interest my lord that all cases that were before late Magistrate Kutigi (former Magistrate in Bwari) are yet to be re- assigned and numerous of similar cases awaiting the speedy attention of court . Very urgent step should be taken in this regard.
c. A State of emergency should be declared over the employment of new Judges and magistrates, before now each Branch of NBA in FCT is usually granted one or more slots, my lord should know that the NBA branches in FCT are critical stakeholders and should be recognized in the scheme of things especially in formation and or construction of the industry they visit and carry out their daily businesses. We humbly request that our application be granted without any written address as we do not intend to protest like our sister branch in Warri but only to be patient and hopeful.
i. The Branches seek to be nominated as representative of the Bar on the ACJA Monitoring Committee (ACJAMC) as provided in ACJA 2015. It is going to make the implementation of the law not only effective through robust synergy between the bar and the bench, it will also provide a reliable feedback system.
ii. Bar and Bench forum to be made inclusive of other members of NBA branches. Therefore, the present size should be enlarged to accommodate varied interests of other divisions. Following the same spirit while commending the administration of provision of library at the headquarters and the magistrate courts at Wuse Zone 2. It is of importance that the administration should consider the pressing need for research and easy access to law books and report by extending same to other divisions. Bar is not shying away from possible assistance to ensure we have access to library in other divisions of the FCT Courts Administration.
d. It will interest my lord from our observation that we have only one Magistrate in the entire Lugbe District, not less than 18-22 cases daily in the course list, lawyers and litigants stay in that court till evening, the judges, the magistrate in Lugbe and other magistrate that shuttle between two different courts to help decongest the courts dockets should be encouraged and rewarded. If we are allowed to reward Judges and magistrates, the Bwari Branch privileges and award committee could have done something in that regard. My lord, a simple letter of commendation to these judges and magistrates as we are poise to compile names soon, will go a long way in encouraging them to do more in a very severe hard condition of service or a special day like this set aside to reward hard work of judges and magistrates.
e. An accused person is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved and the courts discretion of not granting bail excessively should be respected by our judges and magistrate. It does not favor any one for an accused liberty to be restrained with impunity when he or she has not been found guilty. The kind of bail conditions we witness from our courts nowadays leaves much to be desired. May FCT judiciary never witness it by God’s grace.
5.WELFARE OF OUR JUDGES AND JUDCIARY WORKERS
Despite the Judiciary not being taken care of adequately, they should not be discouraged, the society should still believe in the words and pronouncements of our courts that resonates assurances to a common man and always give hope to the society.
In the words of Niki Tobi JSC
“There is no other arm of government that has the duty to protect and preserve truth like the judiciary. The legislature may ambiguously skirt around it, the Executive may pursue pseudo- Truth Policies and Programs; But when Pushcomes- to shore, the only Truth a man on death Rows knows, is that, coming from the JUDGE” end of quote.
I am aware that there are numerous benefits accruable to Head of Courts. But what happens to the noble Lords that will attain mandatory 65 years retirement age without attaining the status of a chief Judge or head of Courts?
The book of Mathew Chapter 6 V 11 comes to mind herein “GIVE US THIS DAY
OUR DAILY BREAD”
The phrase doesn’t necessarily refer to edible bread, but the daily essentials of life that will aid our Judges towards dispensing of justice without fear or favor on a daily basis and equally take care of their daily bodily or family needs.
Our judges deserve the best while alive, they deserve to own their present houses upon retirement or death (God forbids), they deserve quality medical care anywhere in the world, they deserve two or more of their children to enjoy scholarships, or educational grant, they deserve the best instrument of work, and the male judges very important deserves at least 20 minutes break for every 4 hours of sitting, as it has been medically proven that long sitting escalates the causes of Prostate cancer in men. (I am very sorry to our female judges if this offends the principles of Beijing conference)
My Lords, it is only the healthy and living Judges that delivers judgment for the living society.
The music of the Nigerian legend, Bright Chimezie titled UBE NWANNE comes to mind at this moment where he sang in Igbo and I quote;
“O BU MGBA NWANNE GI NWURU GA BERE YA AKWA, BURU YA TINYE NA MOTUARY MAK ILE ANYA, AFUFU UWA KA OTARA MA NWUO ……ETC…..”
ENGLISH: “is it when your brother/Judges dies you will care for him take the body to the morgue , build house, conduct valedictory session with budget and spend lavishly during the burial but in the real sense he died of hunger, neglect and deprivation from essentials of life” etc.
My Lord, It is no longer news that salaries and other welfare packages of our judges and judiciary workers have not been reviewed for years now. Welfare packages that will assuage the occupational hazard of the Judges and bring out the best in them remain a mirage, but, my lord and distinguished colleagues, more is required of the Bar and the Authority concerned (such as the FCT MINISTER, AGF AND THE NJC), at this period the whole world is preaching for the independent of the judiciary and delivery of Justice without fear or favour. Yet their take home pay cannot take them home. (May our Judges not emulate the words of the CJ of Edo State at the NBA AGC 2019 at Eko Hotels Lagos, where she said “You cannot bite the finger that feeds you”) (Without knowing that her salary is of right not of privilege) The welfare of our judges and judicial workers should be of primary concern to the Bar and the leaderships of the courts by extension the provider of the resources. My lord, the Chief Judge has demonstrated love, passion and commitment for the Judges and judiciary workers welfare with the lean resources available to him hence more funds should be allocated to the heads of courts as first line charge and as enshrined in section 81 of 1999 constitution as amended.
It is a known fact that our Judges salary has remained static for the past 12 years or more. A compilation of the annual remuneration of all the judges in Nigeria is put at about 8.7 Billion Naira, the very least earned by the three arms of government, the figure is a dwarf when compared to the 24 Billion Naira voted in 2019 budget as severance package for members of the outgoing 8th National Assembly, may I be permitted not to mention that of the executive to avoid the hate speech fine of N500 Million Naira.
May I, at this juncture ask this salient question?
“What is really the worth of our Education as lawyers /Judges (Judiciary) compared with the other arms of government”? that we so respect, and accord unprecedented priority on their cases before us while neglecting the average struggling citizens cases which the outcome may grow our economy and wellbeing , rather we place premium on political cases that are responsible to the underfunding of the judiciary and the underdevelopment of the economic wellbeing we face today and years to come.?
Wait a minute my lords, before becoming a Judge, you must first be a lawyer, and before being a lawyer you must be called to the Nigerian Bar, and before being called to Bar, you must be a law student in an accredited University, before being a student in such university you must possess certain credits in some subjects before en routing to study there…. What these shows, there are systematic led down procedure before one is called a lawyer/ and or a Judge. Such procedure is totally absent in the other arms of government, anyone with any kind of qualification or even none certificate holder may assume the highest position in the other arms of government in the land, yet they dictates and controls the learned ones in the society and the legal profession grants them the effrontery by virtue of our judgments and legal representation to;
- Earns more money
- Immune from hardship
- Connected to 35 KVA grid electricity lines for 24 hours power supply
- Good working environment
- Quality medical care and other allowances
- Quality utility vehicle (bullet Proof cars)
- Uncountable Quality Security architecture
- Outlawing any entrance and freedom of movement when they are sited in a gathering ( I am aware that our CJ witnessed this during the valedictory section of the retiring President of National industrial court of Nigeria) …and so on.
The judiciary, which is the last hope of a common man, the safe guard of the society and the provider of harmonious living, is allowed to suffer deprivation and neglect. My lords and disguised colleagues, May I specifically inform the Minister of FCT, our own Governor of Abuja, the NJC and our senior brother, in whom we love so much for always associating with the Bar and the Bench whenever an invitation is extended to him for a gathering like this without sending a proxy, the Attorney General of the federation and minister of Justice Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN to listen to this;
In other Clime like United State of America,
A. The Chief Justice earns $255,500 (N89, 425, 000) million per anum, other Justices earn a proper living wage of $244,400 (N85, 540,000), their salary relatively better than average salary in other related occupation such as their oil industry. While our judges in Nigeria gross earning is approximately 6.3 Million Naira Per anum, which puts them at the rate N17,424 Naira .65 kobo as daily appearance fees, which takes care of their feeding, and all sundry daily expenses not including a bottle of quality wine for daily visitors.. Your guess is as good as mine what you will expect of some of them.
B. Just very close to us, our brothers in South Africa, no wonder they stopped according us the respect due to us. According to the report of the independent commission for the remuneration of public office bearers, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, the Judges in the high and labour courts in South Africa earn annual salaries of R I.4 Million (or N33.6 million) naira, with the exchange rate of 24.4 naira per one Rand as at 13th of October 2019 which is yesterday when I was researching on the world exchange rates for this speech.
When they retire, judges are entitled to continue drawing their salaries and other benefits which continue to attract an annual increase. Even when the judges retire or die, their official quarters are inherited by their immediate families, here in Nigeria, FCT judiciary to be precise, our late Judges families need to tell you their ordeal as we speak, they are mandated to vacate their late husband quarters as a matter of policy, (not from our CJ) I must confess, but why must this happen to widows and widowers that labored to strengthen our justice system. But can we say same treatment for South African Judges cannot be extended to our hard and resourceful judges and judicial workers of FCT?. My lords, it is possible under the combined leadership of the FCT Minister and the Attorney General of federation and Minister of Justice, helping the entire Judiciary in requesting from the Executive to come to the aid of NJC towards implementing a good and living welfare pages for our judges soonest. The entire legal Practitioners in FCT have clothed me with powers to request that the above request be implemented for our judges before the next legal year. But if they fail to do so, my lords the Bar have done their part, and the judiciary need not be told how to achieve it. May it not come from my mouth!!!WE CAN’T CONTINUE TO CRY MORETHAN THE BEREAVED.
Having gotten the assurances, the Bar and the civil society should continue to remind the executives and champion the cause of asking for a better living wage for our judges and judicial workers across board even as some courts are now generating money via remita for the country.
Base on the recent institutionalization of red seal fees of 200 naira as it concerns us in FCT, which indirectly have made the High Court of FCT a revenue generating institution for the government and which automatically will lead to the declaration of profit and loss to the concerned agency of government. To whom this time much is expected, much should equally be given. Even Nigerian Law School recently has been mandated by the accountant general to be contributing to the GDP of the country. May we never experience an increment in law school fees thereby making law school an exclusive preserve of the rich. Our able AGF should help us to talk to another AGF (Accountant General of the Federation) not to dream of those ideas. We beg of you sir.
My Lord, on behalf of the NBA Bwari Branch and the entire Trinity Bar, we appreciate your quick response to lawyer’s plight on the opening of the lawyers lounge, you did not just grant us the access, it was implemented immediately request was made. We extend our love to you my lord for the consistent food distribution been given to all judiciary workers at any given festive day though leaving the branches out, that to me is a true meaning of stomach infrastructure which the judiciary workers of FCT by their personal testimonies applauds the gesture despite not enjoying any upward review of wages; there is an Otukpo adage in Benue State, said;
“In the Absence of Cow Rat is a Palatable Meat”. With same protein.
It is my honor on behalf of the branches to thank and appreciate our Lords, for the selfless services, and above all, the humane friendship to all lawyers despite the economic hardship. Do not be discouraged from the recent increase in VAT, having in mind that the only business a Judge can engage to augment his or her wages is farming. The patronage is always in cash and carry basis, yet the government has introduced a 2% cash lodgment and 3% cash withdrawals processing fees which have already taken off. (On a lighter note my lords: (CAN THE FEDERAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL UNILATERALLY INCREASE VAT (VALUE ADDED TAX) WITHOUT GOING THROUGH THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY?) and (CAN THE AREA COUNCIL CHAIRMAN OF AMAC APPROVE THE PAYMENT OF PENSIONS TO ALL PAST CHAIRMEN OF THE COUNCIL WITHOUT SEEKING THE POWERS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY?) having in mind that issue of pension is under the exclusive list which only the National Assembly can legislate. These and more questions that the Bwari Branch of the NBA shall be postulating through the Public interest litigation and advocacy committee before our courts in no distance time.
(I have a passing lot before I rest my case before my Lords. It does not form as address for your Lordship consideration. I am thinking aloud and speaking to the bar as ministers in the temple of justice. Last week one of our officers sent an SMS to the Chairman, Abuja Municipal Area Council asking him on the propriety of the Bye Law he signed for the purpose of paying the past chairmen and past legislative Speakers of the Area Council pension! He responded as follows: …I respect people’s opinions and views… is my own way of honoring past leaders of the council, if anyone has diverse views he is entitled to it’.)
My noble lords, No amount of policy of government should deter you from enjoying the fruit of your labors, you all have already been ordained to succeed in your farming businesses to add up to your lean wages for the time being so as the take home pay could actually take the judges home.
I rest my case with a caveat that as ministers in the temple of justice we must have our ways to ensure that people in public trust honour the rule of law.
Thanks, and may God continue to preserve our lives to see another legal year next year. Amen!!!
Clement Chukwuemeka Esq
NBA, Bwari Branch Servant/Chairman
(THE CAPITAL BAR)
Dated this 14th Day of October, 2019.