When Salami took the bar and bench to cleaners
The Biennial 2014 Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ilorin branch held last week may have come and gone, however the poser it raised may remain unresolved for a very long time. The opening ceremony of the week-long event was held on Tuesday at the Mustapha Akanbi Foundation hall which dwelled on the theme of the week, “A centenary of legal practice in Nigeria: 1914-2014: Legacies and lessons for the next century.” It was a forum of the creme-de-lacreme in the bar and the bench who gathered to appraise the state of the legal practice vis-a-viz the Nigerian judiciary.
Among the eminent jurists in attendance were former Presidents of Court of Appeal, Justice Mustapha Akanbi and Justice Isa Ayo Salami, Chief Judge of Kwara State, Justice Ayinla Bamigbola, acting Grand Khadi of Kwara State Shari’a Court of Appeal, Justice Salihu Oloruntoyin Mohammed, among others while the ceremony was declared open by the state governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed.
Justice Salami who chaired the opening ceremony delivered a thought-provoking address which raised fundamental question about the integrity of the judiciary regarded as the last hope of the common man.
According to Salami, the Nigerian judiciary presently stinks of corruption with the judges aiding and abetting corrupt practices in order to enrich themselves. He declared that many retired and senior judges now act as consultants in fixing judgements.
He said, “The problem of Major stakeholders in the justice sector have called upon the senate to urgently pass into law the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Bill 2013.
Chairman House Committee on Justice, Ahmed Ali and other major stakeholders made the call while speaking at a press conference, last week, in Abuja organized by the Technical Working Group of the Panel on Implementation of Justice Reform (PIJR) and supported by the Justice for All of DFID, United Nations Office Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Centre for Socio-legal Studies.
Others present at the conference are Mrs. Stella Dorgu, member, House Committee on Justice, Prof. Yemi Akinseye George SAN, and convener of the technical working group of panel on the implementation on justice reform corruption in the Nigerian judiciary is real and has eaten deep into the system. It must, however, be noted that it is not all Judicial Officers that are corrupt and dishonourable. There are those who are clearly identifiable as corrupt but they are protected by the system. There are those who lack courage and their timidity is exploited to pervert the course of justice.
“We hear constantly that the lack of courage of these ones are exploited by either their colleagues or retired senior judges who practice as consultants in fixing judgements. These consultants take money from litigants to give judges or intimidate judges to pervert justice. It is my respectful view that appeal should be made to these retired senior justices to leave the despicable role of bribing or intimidating judges. They should engage themselves in other respectable vocations.
“The judges who lend themselves to this dishonourable practice of receiving money or lending themselves to perverting the course of justice under any guise of not receiving reward, monetary or otherwise, should note that there are other means of checking their excesses.”
According to him, many judges live in opulence in Nigeria, owning as much as 16 vintage cars in addition to having “houses which are talk of the town in their community furnished with exotic furniture.”
Salami also noted that the nobility of legal profession is fast waning, lamenting that a body as important as Nigerian Bar Association ( NBA) was given just a slot in the ongoing national conference. He said this “shabby treatment” was possible because the body’s leadership has “meekly submitted to political leadership in return for patronage.”
He recalled that in the good old days, a counsel would not hesitate to put forward authority which does not favour his client but assist the case of his opponent, adding, “But today, our counsel would not only keep such authority from their learned friends, they would goad the court to follow wrong principle of law. Some Senior Advocates misled a Supreme Court panel to employ provision of the Supreme Court Rules to override the provision of the constitution which denied Supreme Court of jurisdiction to entertain matters relating to election petitions thus causing that court to unconstitutionally and illegally dismiss an appeal pending in the Court of Appeal where it terminates. The conduct of the Senior Advocates
L-R, Chief Judge of Kwara State, Justice Ayinla Olatunji Bamigbola; Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed and former President, Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, during the Nigerian Bar Association, Ilorin Branch, 2014 Biennial Law Week in Ilorin on Tuesday.