Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Monday warned 30 newly-appointed Senior Advocates of Nigeria that the rank could be withdrawn from them if they abused it.
He also said the police were investigating some lawyers found to have forged court judgments they present3ed during the process of appointment as SAN.
The CJN spoke during the special court session of the Supreme Court to mark the commencement of the 2018/2019 Legal Year and the swearing-in of the newly-appointed SANs.
Thirty-one lawyers were initially nominated for the conferment of the rank, but the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee at its emergency meeting held on September 22 withdrew the nomination of Ikhide Ehighilua following allegation that he engaged in abuse of court process.
The 30 SANs who were inaugurated on Monday included Attorneys-General of Lagos and Ondo states, Adeniji Kazeem and Adekola Olawoye, respectively.
They also included an external solicitor for Punch Nigeria Limited, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika; Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, Prof. Isa Chiroma, the Vice-Chancellor of the Lagos State University, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun; the National Coordinator of the Legal Defence and Assistance Project, Mr Chinonye Obiagwu, and a prominent advocate, Mr Olalekan Ojo.
Also on the list was Olabode Olanipekun, a son of a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN).
The only female among the new SANs was Prof. Oluyemisi Bamgbose.
Oba Abuchi, Essien Udom, Metong Urombo, Prof. Wahab Egbewole, George Igbokwe, Olubowale Taiwo, Oluwole Iyamu, Adekola Olawoye, Stephen Adehi, Oluseun Akinbiyi, Emmanuel Achukwu, Kenneth Ahia, Louis Alozie, and Wole Agunbiade also made the list.
The rest were Olayode Delano, Taminu Inuwa, Sonny Wogu, Prof. Offorinze Amucheazi, Adewale Atake, Prof. Muhammed Akanbi, Cosmas Enweluzo and Ishaka Mudi.
The CJN said on Monday that the SAN rank was a privilege.
He urged them to jealously guard the rank which he said would be withdrawn if abused.
“The rank is a privilege. It is bestowed on you to show great leadership, integrity, humility, exemplary character and be a role model to all aspiring lawyers and the public at large. I am confident that you all will live up to our expectations.
“It is imperative to state here again that this rare privilege can, and shall be withdrawn if abused. It must therefore be guarded jealously.
“I must also stress that as members of the Inner Bar, you now occupy positions of trust and great responsibility. Expectedly, you must exhibit every virtue of excellence, integrity and diligence at all times. You must also remember your duties to the courts as custodians of justice.”
He also said the LPPC srutinised over 4,000 court judgments which lawyers presented during the appointment process.
He said, “I have to point out the fact that in the just concluded exercise, some applicants were found to have engaged in dishonourable conduct such as forgery of judgments, 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 the assignment of scrutinising over 4,000 judgments, trial proceedings and publications, and at the same time conduct disciplinary proceedings on petitions received against Senior Advocates of Nigeria.”
He also said a new requirement for lawyers in the advocate category applicants had been introduced for the production of evidence of “letters of employment and pension scheme for junior counsel in chambers.”
He said, “Apart from Personal Income Tax requirement already in the guidelines, it is a new requirement for all advocate applicants to provide evidence of letters of employment and pension scheme for junior counsel in chambers.
“The essence of these criteria is to aid the welfare and growth of junior counsel and strengthen the standard of legal practice.”
While giving the Supreme Court a pass mark for ensuring speedy dispensation of justice, he said in the course of the 2017/2018 legal year, the Supreme Court “considered a total number of 1,540 matters comprising motions, appeals and judgments.”
He said the court heard 824 civil and 273 criminal motions, totaling 1,097 and also considered a total number of 438 appeals comprising 246 civil and 192 criminal.
He added, “A total of 297 judgments were delivered by the close of the 2017/2018 legal year. This is by all means an impressive report considering the persistent and increasing volume of cases that continue to come before this court.
“I attribute this impressive performance to the hard work of judicial officers, support staff and the reforms we are implementing to improve justice delivery.”
Assuring that the judiciary would surmount the challenges of delay in justice administration, he said, “My lords, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, while we are not unmindful of the challenges facing the judiciary and dispensation of justice, we are strong in the conviction that we are able to meet these challenges.
“The 2018/2019 legal year will, by the Grace of God, be a great year for the judiciary as it endeavours to deliver justice to all. We therefore commence this legal year with renewed hope and vigor. “
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