Young Lawyers Col­umn

Aiding the course of jus­tice

Daily Trust - - LAW - By Daniel Bu­lus­son Esq

On need for courts in Nigeria to be equipped with highly trained and qual­i­fied sec­re­taries and stenog­ra­phers it was held in ISAH v. STATE (2010) 16 N.W.L.R {1218} at page 157 paras B – E per ORJI –ABADUA “… I must ob­serve that I was never amused but rather dis­mayed at the vol­ume of ty­po­graphic er­rors I no­ticed on the record of pro­ceed­ings of the lower court. Steps should rather be taken to equip all the courts in the coun­try with highly trained and qual­i­fied sec­re­taries, stenog­ra­phers and le­gal as­sis­tants who will be as­sist­ing in proof-read­ing some of these courts’ documents and con­duct­ing le­gal re­searches for the Judges/Jus­tices, rather than leav­ing ju­di­cial of­fi­cers at the hands of copy- typ­ists, thereby mak­ing the Judges’/Jus­tices’ work cum­ber­some…”

This is just one in many cir­cum­stances that court clerks or staffs of the courts ig­no­rantly af­fect the course of jus­tice in our Nige­rian Le­gal Sys­tem. By def­i­ni­tion “A court … is a per­ma­nently or­ga­nized body, with in­de­pen­dent ju­di­cial pow­ers de­fined by law, meet­ing at a time and place fixed by law for the ju­di­cial ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice” Wil­liam J. Hughes Federal Prac­tice, Ju­ris­dic­tion & Pro­ce­dure {1931}. The Blacks Law Dic­tio­nary {Ninth edi­tion} de­fines court as a gov­ern­men­tal body con­sist­ing of one or more judges who sit to ad­ju­di­cate dis­putes and ad­min­is­ter jus­tice, a ques­tion of law for the court to de­cide.

Lit­i­gants, i.e the com­mon man on the street, through their coun­sel ac­cess the court for the pur­pose of set­tling their dis­putes. How­ever in its day to day ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice, the court needs hands and legs who would aid the course of jus­tice. These hands and legs in­clude the Regis­trars, Court Clerks, Bailiffs, Mes­sen­gers, Com­mis­sion­ers for Oath etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, of which some are knowl­edge­able in law to an ex­tent and some don’t have any knowl­edge about law.

Be­fore say­ing much, com­men­da­tion must be made to cer­tain of­fi­cers of the court who are dili­gent in the per­for­mance of their duty in as­sist­ing the court, some young wigs even ask this ded­i­cated staff for guid­ance on what to do in cer­tain knotty sit­u­a­tions ir­re­spec­tive of the fact that they are not lawyers, be­cause of their com­mit­ment and ex­pe­ri­ence on the Job. To this few I say, thank you for a job well done.

Then we have the other set, who take the busi­ness of the court ca­su­ally, they give you one date and re­flect an­other date on the case file, only for a young lawyer to come to court pre­pared for busi­ness then dis­cover that the case is slated for an­other day. If the lawyer is un­lucky, his case might be struck out on an ear­lier date with­out him know­ing, this is more com­mon in some mag­is­te­rial district. An­other set feel they know and un­der­stand le­gal prac­tise and the work­ings of the pro­fes­sion bet­ter than the young wigs be­cause they have been in the Nige­rian Le­gal Sys­tem ear­lier, some even go to the ex­tent of talk­ing to the young wig with dis­dain and dis­re­spect in front of lit­i­gants.

One can­not over em­pha­sise the im­por­tance of these of­fi­cers of court, for with­out them the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice would be prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble, in the same vein when ma­jor­ity of them are ill trained or un­der qual­i­fied, the course of jus­tice would be im­mensely af­fected. Law is a re­volv­ing pro­fes­sion that is hardly static; it changes as the need of the so­ci­ety war­rants.

The Na­tional Ju­di­cial Coun­cil (NJC) and the Ju­di­ciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) should look for means to or­gan­ise work­shops, sem­i­nars, dis­cus­sion groups or col­lo­quium to keep court staff abreast with the dy­nam­ics of the le­gal pro­fes­sion that touches on the day to day busi­ness of the courts. Like the im­por­tance of ef­fect­ing prompt ser­vice of court process on par­ties or coun­sel, tak­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tion of pro­ceed­ings in the lan­guage un­der­stood by wit­ness or par­ties se­ri­ous, fix­ing dates with­out con­cern to the con­ve­nience of a coun­sel et al.

If pos­si­ble, the stan­dard of cri­te­ria used to em­ploy these of­fi­cers of court should be raised to bet­ter im­prove the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice. The com­mon man on the street comes to court be­cause he be­lieves in the sanc­tity of the ju­di­ciary. Clients some­time ques­tion the se­ri­ous­ness of young wigs when the busi­ness slated for the day is ad­journed to an­other date due to one omis­sion or com­mis­sion of an of­fi­cer of the court.

Do send your com­ments, ob­ser­va­tion and rec­om­men­da­tion to daniel­bu­lus­son@gmail.com

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