The war against corruption has received a boost in the judiciary as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, disclosed that the Legal Practitioners and Privileges Committee (LPPC) has handed some lawyers who forged court judgment in their desperation to get the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to the police for investigation and prosecution.
Justice Onnoghen, who disclosed this on Monday, 24th September 2018 in Abuja at the opening of 2018/2019 new legal year and conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) on deserving lawyers, said the forged judgment were presented as part of documents meant to meet requirement of the LPPC for nomination for the rank of SAN. The CJN added that the unscrupulous desperate legal practitioners were caught by the eagle eyes of the LPPC members during the screening exercise. Although, the names of the offending lawyers were not made public, the CJN said that they have been reported to police who apprehended them for interrogation and prosecution for offence of criminal forgery among others.
The CJN said, “I have to point out the fact that in the just concluded exercise, some applicants were found to have engaged in dishonorable conduct such as forgery of judgment, resulting in their being reported to the police for investigation and possible prosecution. We have to know that if one is not for any reason qualified to wear silk as a judicial officer, he cannot wear it as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. “I would like at this point to thank the distinguished members of the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee tasked with this assignment of scrutinizing over 4,000 judgments, trial proceedings and publications, and at the same time conduct disciplinary proceedings on petitions received against Senior Advocates of Nigeria”.
Onnoghen also disclosed that although 31 legal practitioners were successful and scaled the nomination processes, 30 were conferred with the prestigious rank of SAN. He explained that based on a petition against “one of the awardees, Ikhide Ehighilua Esq, and by virtue of Section 5(1) of the Legal Practitioners Act, CAP L11,Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 as amended, the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee at an emergency meeting held on Thursday, September 20, 2018, to consider the petition, and the written reply by the respondent, decided to withdraw the nomination of Ikhide Ehighilua Esq, for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria.”
The Committee also barred Ehighilua from applying for the rank for the next five (5) years or five applications beginning from 2019. By virtue of the provision of section 5 of the Legal Practitioners ‘Act, CAP L11, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 as amended, the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC) has the sole responsibility to confer on legal practitioners the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). Speaking on the state of the nation, the CJN warned that those in power must not lose sight of the indispensable role of the judiciary in the fight against corruption, adding that the fight against corruption is not the responsibility of any particular arm of government but that of every citizen of Nigeria.
According to him, corruption or any other form of injustice thrives in a culture of impunity, adding that to carry out a successful campaign against corruption, “We have to fight with the culture of impunity which is an attitudinal phenomenon. If we allow and respect the rule of law, then there will be a drastic reduction in corruption and injustice”. “As a democracy, our nation is guided by the rule of law where the constitution is the grand norm. And let me quickly add that there is no ambiguity as regards the role of the judiciary in our constitution”, he added.
Also speaking at the occasion, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), appealed to judges to brace up to challenges that would come their ways before, during and after the forthcoming general election. He said that as part of efforts by the Federal Government to make the judiciary truly independent, President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to the constitutional amendment which now makes monies due to the judiciary in the annual budget to be paid directly to the Heads of courts.
On his part, a legal luminary, Chief Onomigbo Okpoko, SAN, who spoke on behalf of Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, warned lawyers against resorting to distortion of issues and facts or manufacturing of evidence to confuse judges to get undeserved favorable judgment for their clients. Okpoko appealed to lawyers to always render advice to their clients appropriately no matter what instead of engaging in cases that cannot prove both facts and law before the courts. Responding on behalf of the awardees, Oba Maduabuchi (SAN) advocated for the creation of Divisions of the Supreme Court in Enugu, Ibadan and Abuja.
He said that a single apex court have proven that it could not cope with the avalanche of appeals emanating from various divisions of the Appeal Courts divisions across the country. A total of 30 Senior Advocates of Nigeria including Olabode Olanipekun, son of legal luminary, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN; Attorney General of Lagos State, Mosediq Kazeem and Sonny Wogu were conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria among others.
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