An im­bal­anced le­gal in­dus­try

Daily Trust - - LAW - By Daniel Bu­lus­son, Esq

Im­bal­anced means ‘A lack of bal­ance, as in dis­tri­bu­tion or func­tion­ing. Un­evenly or un­fairly ar­ranged.’ The­free­d­ic­tionary

An im­bal­anced le­gal in­dus­try is one where ad­ju­di­ca­tion and dis­pen­sa­tion of jus­tice is un­fairly as­sessed by par­ties in­ter­ested in the le­gal pur­suit of rem­edy for wrong done to them. In the Nige­rian set­ting, there are cer­tain fa­mous in­stances that fre­quently oc­cur in our le­gal en­vi­ron­ment which gives out the le­gal in­dus­try as im­bal­anced.

This writer was an un­der­grad­u­ate in the univer­sity, or a stu­dent in the Nige­rian Law School, when the Aluu killings hap­pened in Port Har­court. This should be five or six years ago, if not more, and it is just barely weeks ago that judg­ment was de­liv­ered in the High Court of Rivers State as a court of first in­stance, mean­ing there is a pos­si­bil­ity of ap­peal to the Court of Ap­peal, and then to the Supreme Court, giv­ing an Ac­cused/De­fen­dant too long a time to avoid the wrath of the law be­fore judg­ment is passed.

I met a Nige­rian who prac­tices law in The United King­dom, as a mem­ber of the In­ner Bar, a body of the Queen’s Coun­sel, who ex­plained to me that in the Bri­tish sys­tem an ac­cused can be charged and con­victed in a man­ner of weeks, at most months. Mean­while in Nige­ria, a judg­ment Debtor/Ap­pel­lant can avoid ex­e­cu­tion of a judg­ment debt for months by fil­ing a friv­o­lous ap­peal at the Court of Ap­peal, and due to the kind of sys­tem we have, the courts are bound to lis­ten to every party that comes be­fore it, and can only de­ter­mine if an ap­peal is friv­o­lous only when it gets into its arena. A Judg­ment Cred­i­tor/Re­spon­dent has to wait for years to reap the fruits of his/her lit­i­ga­tion.

The Nige­rian Po­lice have be­come a fast and ef­fec­tive tool for debt re­cov­ery be­tween cit­i­zens, yet we say the po­lice are not debt col­lec­tors, by the time a fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights ap­pli­ca­tion is filed, the dam­age has al­ready been done. Take for in­stance, a com­plainant makes a com­plaint to the po­lice on of­fence of breach of trust and cheating, which is crim­i­nal in na­ture, the Sus­pect then files Fun­da­men­tal Right ap­pli­ca­tion ask­ing the court to re­strain the po­lice from ar­rest­ing him/her, the hear­ing of the ap­pli­ca­tion is ad­journed till af­ter court’s va­ca­tion (2 months) and the sus­pect walks freely on the street pend­ing de­ter­mi­na­tion of the ap­pli­ca­tion.

A se­nior lawyer once opined that ‘the Va­ca­tion/Hol­i­day of the High Court Judges is too long, and con­trib­utes in no small mea­sure to the de­lay, cases suf­fer in courts. I have no­ticed a dis­turb­ing trend where some judges will not de­liver judg­ment one (1), two (2) or even three (3) years af­ter con­clu­sion of trial, why do the High Court Judges en­joy more hol­i­day than the Mag­is­trates?, Do they re­ally do more work than the Mag­is­trates, or is it be­cause one is a lower bench and the other is higher bench?’. If you ask me, our Judges/ Mag­is­trates can only play the part the le­gal sys­tem al­lows them to play, be­ing likened to their hands tied be­hind their back, yet we ask them to dis­pense jus­tice ef­fec­tively.

To Fu­men Isaac Gandu, Esq a mem­ber of the NBAYLF Gov­ern­ing Coun­cil, and Sec­re­tary of The Young Wig Net­work, ‘I buy the idea partly that we are over stretch­ing the Mag­is­trates, how­ever if you look at it closely you would see that the Mag­is­trates are the courts of first in­stance thereby mak­ing them the en­gine room of the Ju­di­ciary. The High Courts have va­ca­tion judges pro­vid­ing room for con­ti­nu­ity as to some ur­gent cases; my take would be that there should be Va­ca­tion Mag­is­trates for the Mag­is­trate Court.’

Truth be told, the le­gal in­dus­try as prac­ticed in Nige­ria is im­bal­anced, with over sixty years of age, the le­gal pro­fes­sion in Nige­ria ought to take a shape that would put it on the radar of the world as a bas­tion of jus­tice, and last hope of the com­mon man. A wise man once said ‘we can­not con­tinue to do the same thing all the time, and ex­pect a dif­fer­ent re­sult.’

The level of glob­al­iza­tion that the world is right now, pro­vides the best op­por­tu­nity for the Nige­ria le­gal in­dus­try to key in and re-shape its prac­tice to fit modern stan­dard, the down­side how­ever is the Nige­rian Sys­tem as a whole con­trib­utes to the stunted growth of the pro­fes­sion, that any mean­ing­ful change takes ages to come into ef­fect. The fu­ture on the pro­fes­sion de­pends largely on re-struc­tur­ing and reengi­neer­ing, not just the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. God­speed! Do send your com­ment{s}, ob­ser­va­tion{s} and rec­om­men­da­tion{s} to daniel­bu­lus­son@gmail.com or like us on www.face­book.com/ younglawyer­scol­umn

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