LAW SANs take cases be­fit­ting ju­nior lawyers – Shehu

Bar­ris­ter Garba Uba Shehu is the im­me­di­ate past At­tor­ney Gen­eral and Com­mis­sioner for Jus­tice in Kaduna State. He speaks on women, fash­ion and ar­chaic and mod­ern law prac­tices and blames some of his col­leagues for de­lay­ing the dis­pen­sa­tion of jus­tice.

Daily Trust - - LAW - By Ibra­heem Hamza Muham­mad

What do you think should be done to re­form the ju­di­ciary as many say it is the last hope of the com­mon man and there­fore needs to be up­right?

Ev­ery seg­ment of the Nige­rian so­ci­ety needs to be re­formed and the ju­di­ciary is one of the most sa­cred in­sti­tu­tions with peo­ple who are ex­pected to dis­pense jus­tice in very stren­u­ous con­di­tions. Dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the for­mer Head of State, Gen­eral Ab­dul­salami Abubakar, he set up the Jus­tice Kay­ode Esho Panel on how to re­form the ju­di­ciary.

My late boss, Bar­ris­ter Ya­haya Mah­mud, ap­peared be­fore the com­mit­tee and pre­sented the salary scales of mag­is­trates, high court judges and Lords in Eng­land who re­ceive N15 to N20 mil­lion monthly when con­verted to naira and com­pared it to the salary of a chief mag­is­trate who re­ceives N30,000 monthly as salary, with no car, and no gen­er­a­tor in the court. Jus­tice Kay­ode Esho, how­ever told him that it was not pos­si­ble in Nige­ria. Judges in Eng­land don’t write long hand, but have stenog­ra­phers. But Nige­rian judges work very hard, take notes while ob­serv­ing the de­meanor of a wit­ness. There are bad eggs, like one per­cent in the ju­di­ciary as in ev­ery seg­ment of the Nige­rian so­ci­ety. We need cleans­ing.

The best way to as­sess a judge is not from the or­der he makes, but the con­di­tion he works, some­times in a sit­u­a­tion where the judge works and his salary is paid by some­body who might not even pay him as at when due.

So it is not the judge as a per­son but the pro­ce­dural laws. We need to un­der­stand that some of the for­eign laws from Bri­tain are an­ti­quated there and we need to change them. But the process is very long. We are now try­ing cor­rup­tion cases and when we look at the Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Act, the judge can­not give the max­i­mum sen­tence for first of­fender.

Peo­ple think when a judge finds some­body guilty and sen­tences him to a light sen­tence, that he had col­lected money. It is the law that is ty­ing their hand. An ex­am­ple is the pen­sion case be­tween John Ayuba where he ad­mit­ted. You may have one of­fence, but then there is one short sum­mary trial where some­body will go to the court and ad­mit; if you ad­mit, the law pro­vides for a lesser sen­tence be­cause he has saved the court the rigours of go­ing through a long trial. When some­body al­lows him­self to go into a long trial that is when the max­i­mum sen­tence will come into play. But then if you went to court and got a short sum­mary trial, you may be con­victed and you will not have the max­i­mum sen­tence. The most im­por­tant thing is to smoothen the rules of pro­ce­dure that will make the judges work very sim­ple and fast.

What is your take on the case of Ma­jor Hamza Al-Mustapha which will go down in his­tory as one of the cases that lasted for al­most two decades?

It is the rules of pro­ce­dure. In the North we ap­ply the rules of pro­ce­dure and if you want to try some­body it has to be un­der that law. And it pro­vides a lot of bot­tle­necks to speedy dis­pen­sa­tion of jus­tice. And of course you re­al­ize that some­times lawyers cause de­lays. May be if they think there is too much out­cry, and their client will be con­victed, they em­ploy de­lay tac­tics; they de­lib­er­ately bring an is­sue and the court will rule and they ap­peal. And in the course of the ap­peal, they re­tard the progress of the case.

In Al-Mustapha’s case there are so many ap­peals pend­ing at the Court of Ap­peal, even pre­lim­i­nary ap­peals. Look at what hap­pens in Se­na­tor Bukola Saraki’s case, a case that is sup­posed to last for three to four years might last 18 years.

What is the way out so that the com­mon man can have a sense of be­long­ing in the Nige­rian ju­di­ciary?

The crim­i­nal law has to be re­formed so that it pro­vides faster and ef­fi­cient means for dis­pen­sa­tion of jus­tice. An ex­am­ple is the Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Act, ACJA 2015, but you find out that it does not ap­ply to state but fed­eral of­fences, be­cause the fed­eral gov­ern­ment can only make laws in re­spect of those is­sues there. So the pro­vi­sions of ACJA are not ap­pli­ca­ble to states like Kaduna.

We have to find a way of stream­lin­ing the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem pro­ce­dures by hav­ing a uni­form sys­tem all over the coun­try for a trial not to last for too long. You can­not say be­cause of pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence un­der the con­sti­tu­tion, a case must fin­ish in six months be­cause if a judge made a rul­ing that you are not con­tented with, you will ap­peal. You can­not give time frame for dis­posal of a crim­i­nal case.

What is your re­ac­tion over the dif­fer­ent court judg­ments on the PDP saga?

This is not the first time that this has hap­pened. It hap­pened

Do you agree with the call for the sep­a­ra­tion of the of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral from that of Com­mis­sioner of Jus­tice?

It is just du­pli­ca­tion, hav­ing the two po­si­tions in the same place will save a lot of cost and con­flict, be­cause if you say the at­tor­ney gen­eral will be from the core civil ser­vice and the com­mis­sioner a politi­cian that will be panacea for trou­ble and the work will suf­fer.

Why are you in sup­port of the abo­li­tion of the ti­tle of Se­nior Ad­vo­cate of Nige­ria, SAN?

I am in sup­port for the abo­li­tion of the ti­tle of SAN as some SAN hold­ers do not al­low younger ones to prac­tice and some take clients and cases that are be­fit­ting of the ju­nior lawyers.

Women pre­par­ing for court are said to spend too much time ap­ply­ing make-up while they are not go­ing on fash­ion pa­rade?

Women should al­ways be women, they should look well and not hag­gard and you can­not take this away from women no mat­ter the age.

Bar­ris­ter Garba Uba Shehu

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