I crave the indulgence of the public particularly lawyers most of whom have rendered and continue to render significant service for our country. My apology centres mainly on the fact that I am not a lawyer, or as they would say, I am not learned or qualified enough to comment on legal matters – least of all court issues.
By Deji Fasuan MON JP
Apart from having friends, close associates and advisers, my closet link with law was in 1955 when I was forced to take what was classified as ‘Elementary Law’ as a subsidiary of my major Economics Course at Fourah Bay College, University College of Sierra Leone.
The contents of ‘Elementary Law’ were mainly Land Law, and Law of Contracts. Throughout my four year at the college, this was the most harrowing time. I almost hated law or the legal profession until about 1962 when my friend Aare Afe Babalola latterly of ABUAD fame began his famous court fights against luminaries like Rotimi Williams, and started appearing before stalwarts like Kayode Esho etc. The judiciary in those golden days was a marvel – which included many English judges and jurists.
These days, since Nigeria’s complete independence, including independence to manipulate proceedings, and judgements, things have dramatically changed. Today court proceedings, including which state, courts and judges to settle issues, mostly political, are carefully selected, and dutifully put in care of financially powerful state governors. Do not be deceived by other pretences. What is amazing is the dare by which legal contestants make their choice or how do we explain the rationale behind two contestants to a political position in my village, and one of them opting to go to court in another region, say across the Niger to get the High Court, federal or state to adjudicate?
For a layman or illiterate like me, I would interpret it to mean going to where and from whom I can get favourable judgement. Is it not a perversion of the judicial system?
In addition to individuals trying to purchase or ‘get’ the court process and influence decisions, judges have been influenced to pronounce judgements in favour of felons who have gone free because they had come before a wrong judge or a wrong judge has pronounced judgment in their case.
I must say that some senior lawyers are conscientious, methodical and brilliant in their presentation. These few senior advocates are more concerned about justice and their integrity rather than accumulating tons of ill-gotten money from fraudulent politicians.
Some famous or infamous cases have been on for decades while the culprits continue to enjoy their loot and undeserved freedom. Whereas many innocents who cannot ‘play ball’ or do not have appropriate connections languish in undeserved detention. One of the most perplexing things that occur in our judiciary is that some Nigerians cannot be sued, or in any way brought to book irrespective of the sins they have committed against other citizens or the Nigerian state. Are these ordinary citizens or a separate cast of humanity?
The present Supreme Court particularly the Chief Justice of Nigeria have heavy responsibility in their hands. There must be changes in the upper echelons of our judicial system. High Court of states or the federal court must strictly and honestly keep to their oath of office. This country must be counted as one of those countries whose legal system is regarded and civilize and reliable.
The court of the same level giving contradictory judgement is a big joke. In England where we imported ‘wholesale’ our judicial system and the U.S where we are trying to imitate the federal System, justice is not a negotiable instrument. Both high and low have equal access to justice and no one is permanently forbidden to be prosecuted for crimes against the state, and no contestant can choose or pick a state judiciary or judge who would adjudicate in his case. Fair is fair.
- Deji Fasuan MON JP