Home FEATURED Onnoghen: 20 SANs move for urgent  reform of judiciary

Onnoghen: 20 SANs move for urgent  reform of judiciary



A group of 20 Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, has put machinery in motion to begin urgent reform of the judiciary in view of wanton corruption that has engulfed the system.

The move becomes imperative following allegations of corruption in the topmost hierarchy of the judiciary, leading to the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN.

The SANs are: Ebun Sofunde, Kayode Sofola, Kola Awodein, Ademola Akinrele, Eyimofe Atake, Olufunke Adekoya, Oluwafemi Atoyebi, Yemi Candide – Johnson, Olasupo Shasore, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, Osaro Eghobamien, Babatunde Fagbohunlu, Wemimo Ogunde, Jibrin Okutepa, Olumide Sofowora, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, Olatunde Adejuyigbe, Dr. Adewale Olawoyin, Adeniyi Adegbonmire and Oyesoji Oyeleke.

The SANs, in a statement said they felt embarrassed and deeply concerned by the recent events surrounding the suspension of Onnoghen as the CJN.

They said they felt obliged to make this intervention for a recognition that the events which had resulted in this debacle was in fact a manifestation of and response to a deeper malaise in the administration of justice and justice delivery in Nigeria and a concern that the crisis of confidence that is currently shaking the judiciary and the legal profession in Nigeria is unprecedented.

“In making this intervention, we do not propose to delve into the merits or demerits of the respective positions that have been taken by the different actors regarding the suspension of Justice Onnoghen.

“Our focus in making this intervention given the context of the unfolding events 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.

“Certain facts are hardly contestable. 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. Lack of transparency and a deep appreciation of the basic ethos of governance in the processes and procedures of the relevant institutions lies at the very heart of the challenges the Bench and the Bar are currently facing,” they said.

According to them, there was a perception that the National Judicial Council (NJC) had been ineffective in exercising discipline where high-ranking judicial officers are involved and that its proceedings and internal processes were unduly opaque, saying that similarly, the Nigerian Bar Association was notorious for its inefficacy in respect of disciplinary issues.

They contended that petitions filed by litigants and members of the public lingered for years on end without resolution. and that the Nigerian legal profession and justice system had known better days.

“We recall the golden era of our judiciary, when judgments of Nigerian courts were cited with approval in foreign courts. Sadly, this is no longer the case. In our view, the incessant examples of contradictory decisions that have afflicted Nigerian jurisprudence in all facets of law further fuel the perception of incompetence and corruption by the Nigerian judiciary and the legal profession.

“It must be obvious to everyone that the time has come for urgent self- introspection and evaluation with the ultimate aim of a *robust systemic reform of the Nigerian judiciary* and the legal profession,” they added.

The SANs said the group had been established to collaborate with stakeholders in an effort aimed at achieving broad consensus on, and implementing a process that would lead to the review and reform of 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; the terms and conditions of service of judicial officers and Judicial ethics, values and the relationship of the Bench with the Bar.

Other areas are: 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.

“The need for action is urgent. We will commence our work immediately, and we will operate on the basis of transparency, objectivity and inclusiveness. We will soon publish details of how we propose to engage and collaborate with all stakeholders, especially the Nigerian Bar Association. Let us act now to save our profession and our nation,” they said.



































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