Judges should not have re­tire­ment age - Yunus Us­taz Us­man, SAN

Daily Trust - - LAW - By Ibra­heem Hamza Mo­hammed

Yunus Us­taz Us­man (SAN), who hails from Igeme in Kogi State, was in­flu­enced by his un­cle, Ab­dul­lahi Ibrahim, one of the first SAN from north­ern Nige­ria and was un­der the tute­lage of the former Chief Jus­tice of Nige­ria, Muham­mad Lawal Uwais. He read English Law and grad­u­ated from the fa­mous Ah­madu Bello Univer­sity Zaria af­ter ac­quir­ing a diploma in Law, Sharia Law. trans­fer a state case to an­other state be­cause the limit of the ju­ris­dic­tion of a state High Court is lim­ited within the state.

Do you en­cour­age out-of­court-set­tle­ment?

Yes, I do. In most cases it pays more. In the Nige­rian psy­che, if you take some­body to court he be­comes your per­ma­nent en­emy. But if am­i­ca­ble set­tle­ment is ar­ranged, they con­tinue their nor­mal re­la­tion­ship.

Why are ju­di­cial sys­tem and judges dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand for lay­men?

A judge has no power to de­liver judg­ment based on what is in his mind. It is as you present the fact to him. Even if a judge saw some­body killing an­other per­son and the case is brought be­fore him, he can­not rule on what he saw, or leaves his post to serve as a wit­ness.

What is your ad­vice for younger lawyers?

My own daugh­ter be­came a lawyer at the age of 20. Age is not pro­por­tion­ate with com­pe­tence in law at all. My ad­vice is for them to try and make a good name be­fore money. When you make a good name the money will run af­ter you. But the mo­ment you run af­ter money be­fore you make name, you will lose both.

Do you sup­port par­lia­men­tary sys­tem of gov­ern­ment for Nige­ria?

I think the pres­i­den­tial sys­tem has not failed us. But our leg­is­la­tors should op­er­ate on a part-time ba­sis, just like what is ob­tained in Amer­ica and Bri­tain. I am 57 years old, so I need to say my mind now as I may no longer live for more than 20 years. If you do not tell the truth you

Where did you work be­fore be­com­ing a Se­nior Ad­vo­cate of Nige­ria?

My un­cle, Ab­dul­lahi Ibrahim, the first SAN from north­ern Nige­ria in­tro­duced me to the former Chief Jus­tice of Nige­ria when he was a jus­tice of the Supreme Court in La­gos and who gave me his guest house to stay in while I was at the Nige­rian Law School in La­gos. He sharp­ened my life though I didn’t know that peo­ple in high po­si­tion of au­thor­ity could be hum­ble and kind. I still pray for my chil­dren to be as hum­ble as Jus­tice Uwais. He was so hum­ble that one day, when the light bulb in my room went off, he him­self climbed a chair and screwed it back into place for me. As a party en­thu­si­ast in La­gos then, I one day, went back home hun­gry. It was around 3am; he saw me from his study and brought food from the kitchen for me. We need peo­ple like him in Nige­ria. I worked un­der the firm of my un­cle be­fore mov­ing on.

When did you es­tab­lish your own cham­ber?

I es­tab­lished my cham­ber in Novem­ber 1989.

What cases con­trib­uted in mak­ing you fa­mous and a Se­nior Ad­vo­cate of Nige­ria?

God knows that I am not bet­ter than many peo­ple. But the case be­tween Ila Alka­mawa and Bello, both res­i­dents of Sokoto State over Sh­ufa in Is­lam, was re­mark­able. In Sh­ufa, if you want to sell your house, you are re­quired to first talk to your neigh­bour to see if he is in­ter­ested be­fore sell­ing it to any other will­ing buyer.

My client did not want to sell his house to his neigh­bour be­cause they were arch-ri­vals. One of them was in the Izala sect while the other was a mem­ber of the Darika sect. The case went to the Supreme Court. The pre­sid­ing judge was Jus­tice Wali, an­other very hum­ble and friendly per­son. I ar­gued that there is “no com­pul­sion in Is­lam,’’ and in Nige­ria we prac­tice the Is­lamic Ma­liki school of thought. And there is no such pro­vi­sion in Ma­liki. I won the case. It is en­shrined that you can now sell your house with­out the con­sent of your neigh­bour.

Why are re­tired Supreme Court jus­tices still in the Na­tional Ju­di­cial Com­mis­sion (NJC) in­stead of mak­ing way for the younger ones?

A judge is like wine, the older he grows, the more ma­ture, tol­er­ant, hu­mane and ex­pe­ri­enced he is. I am one of those that are ad­vo­cat­ing to con­vince the Na­tional Assem­bly that judges should not have any re­tire­ment age, just like in the US and UK. The first black man to be the jus­tice of the Supreme Court in the US, Jus­tice Thur­good Mar­shall, re­tired vol­un­tar­ily at the age of 89. From my lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence, the older ones are more ex­pe­ri­enced. If at a par­tic­u­lar time a judge said he is tired or not well, he can go. Some are stronger than me to­day.

Cases in­volv­ing peo­ple who steal bil­lions of naira in Nige­ria are hardly con­cluded; but a pick­pocket is mostly sum­mar­ily tried and sen­tenced within few months or even days; what is your take on this?

Too many fac­tors are in­volved. You need a lot of ev­i­dence to carry the case, or they throw it out. I don’t blame them be­cause they need to do a lot of re­search. My quar­rel with our pros­e­cut­ing sys­tem in Nige­ria is: why do you con­vict a pick­pocket; why not just let him re­turn the money and go? This is why we have a lot of con­ges­tion in pris­ons.

Is in­sur­gency af­fect­ing speedy dis­pen­sa­tion of jus­tice in volatile states?

Of course, yes. The courts can­not sit when there is no peace. And you can­not

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