Per­cep­tion of the Law

Daily Trust - - LAW - By Daniel Bu­lus­son Esq

The United States (US) le­gal sys­tem de­fines per­cep­tion to mean “ap­pre­ci­a­tion or cog­ni­tion. It is an ob­ser­va­tion aware­ness, or re­al­i­sa­tion, usu­ally based on phys­i­cal sen­sa­tion or ex­pe­ri­ence.” It there­fore means that per­cep­tion is got­ten from the sur­round­ing cir­cum­stances of the viewer.

Take for in­stance in the coun­try right now, the pub­lic be­lieves the Bar & Bench are scut­tling the anti-cor­rup­tion war be­cause they are faced with facts as re­ported by the me­dia that way; the pub­lic is con­tin­u­ally los­ing con­fi­dence in the ju­di­ciary be­cause the wrath of jus­tice is only felt by the poor.

Some are even say­ing that it is be­cause of the per­son­al­ity or po­si­tion that some Nige­ri­ans pos­sess, like the Se­nate Pres­i­dent, Bukola Saraki, the for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser {NSA} Sambo Da­suki that is why they are yet to face the brunt of the law, that if it were a com­mon man in­volved in such enor­mous crimes he would have been done and dusted by now. And the truth is se­lec­tive jus­tice is no jus­tice at all.

When the pub­lic is faced with such in­for­ma­tion and the at­ti­tudes of some mem­bers of the Bar and Bench con­firms this as­ser­tion, can we then say that the pub­lic per­cep­tion of the Law in Nige­ria is mis­con­ceived? Or are the op­er­a­tors of the le­gal pro­fes­sion who should be chang­ing this im­pres­sion lax on the ap­proach of same?

It is my be­lief that while the me­dia have helped in giv­ing out half-baked truths about the true na­ture of the pro­fes­sion, we as mem­bers of the pro­fes­sion owe it a duty to the pro­fes­sion to show the so­ci­ety that it is a dif­fer­ent ball game, and to achieve this, both the Bar and the Bench must work as a team.

Us­ing the Abia le­gal im­broglio as a case study, one or more lawyer{s} must have sug­gested a route that has brought the le­gal co­nun­drum go­ing on now in the state to the mercy of the poor masses who are con­fused and don’t know which way is the right route and which way is not, and be­cause I am not con­ver­sant with the com­plete facts of what is go­ing on in the state, I would not as­sume which side is wrong or right.

The team work as ad­vo­cated here would play out when mem­bers of both the Bar and Bench start call­ing a spade, a spade while in the per­for­mance of du­ties as le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers, there is lit­tle the bench or Court can do than to grant a re­lief sought by a party in a process franked by a lawyer. A lawyer ought to re­spect the Rules of Court, while the Bench must be brave to take a stand where a re­lief sought would cause more harm than good to the so­ci­ety.

The is­sue of crit­i­ciz­ing judg­ments on pub­lic me­dia has been over flogged by this col­umn and we strongly ad­vise against young lawyers tow­ing this line ei­ther now or in the fu­ture, how­ever, some se­nior mem­bers of the Bar still en­gage in it. The pub­lic can­not have a good per­cep­tion of the law when team mem­bers are shoot­ing at them­selves - when the judg­ment is in our favour we say eru­dite and well con­sid­ered, when it is against us, we say poorly re­searched, and these state­ments are made to the hear­ing of lay­men who know lit­tle of what hap­pens in the le­gal sys­tem.

In the words of Pro­fes­sor A.K Us­man, Se­nior Spe­cial As­sis­tant to Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari on Le­gal Mat­ters, Re­search and Doc­u­men­ta­tion “God for­bid that the Bar and Bench after los­ing pa­tron­age be­cause of their per­ceived col­lu­sion with cor­rupt peo­ple, be heard cry­ing out against loss of rel­e­vance and plead­ing for re­mis­sion like the fel­low who after killing his fa­ther and mother and was about to be sen­tenced plead­ing for le­niency be­cause he was an or­phan.”

What we do as a body mat­ters and the so­ci­ety is ob­serv­ing, us­ing sur­round­ing cir­cum­stances to form an opin­ion about how the law works in this coun­try, whether the per­cep­tion is true or not mat­ters lit­tle, if we can­not present our­selves as min­is­ters in the tem­ple of jus­tice.

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