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Sanction Lawyers Who Give their Seals to Agents — NBA, Ilorin Branch- Judiciary Committee Report

Reforms improve the Legal Profession. This is one reason why the Constitutional Review Committee or any other similar committee is set up to introduce recommendations that will be of immense benefits in improving the current state of the profession. But what happens when sound recommendations are sometimes treated as triviality or perhaps forgotten? This may be fate of the Report of the Bar/Judiciary Committee of the NBA, Ilorin Branch.

In this exclusive report, the judiciary committee listed out some recommendations that are not only interesting but may stand the test of time if eventually implemented.

This committee was set up at the monthly meeting of the NBA Ilorin Branch held on 25th May, 2016. Members of the committee are:
Sir J.S. Bamigboye, SAN ………. Chairman
Olateju K. Taofiq Esq. ………. Member
Olorunisola Olasunkanmi Esq. ….…… Member
Dr. R.O. Abdulkadir ………. Member
Olayemi Shittu (Mrs.) ………. Member
Wahab Ismail Esq. ………. Member
Ibrahim Toyin Jimoh Esq. ………. Member
Oluronke Adeyemi (Mrs.) ………. Secretary
The Committee met and deliberated on the terms of reference given to it and has come up with the following report and recommendations.

a. Court Rooms: Members raised the issue of the deplorable conditions of most of our court rooms which are quite embarrassing. Court rooms at Offa, Omu-Aran, Bode Saadu, Oloje, Akerebiata, Pake, Ganmo and some even at the headquarters are in very bad shape and unfit for legal practice. The committee suggests that the NBA should recommend the following to the leadership of the Judiciary:

i. That all the courtrooms should be given a face lift.
ii. That cleaners be employed and supervised to ensure cleanliness of these courts at all times.
iii. The locations of the courts at Oloje, Centre Igboro, Ganmo and Pake are not conducive for legal proceedings and the courts should be relocated to more conducive locations.
iv. That the Judiciary should be given a time frame of six months to relocate the said courts or we boycott proceedings in such courts.
v. The court at Akerebiata should be renovated. The compound needs proper drainage as well as concrete floor. It is recommended that the NBA can assist with the renovation of this court as a social responsibility and to encourage the judiciary.

b. Service of Process By Bailiffs:
The idea of haggling with the bailiffs on fees for service was condemned. It is hereby suggested that the Judiciary and the Bar should work out a realistic bill of charges for service of court processes which will be payable to the treasury and the bailiffs mobilized by the Judiciary to effect the service. That way, the lawyers have no need to contact the bailiffs except to provide a pointer if required.

c. Commissioners for Oaths: It was observed that Judiciary Staff who act as Commissioners for Oath are too many. This gives room to all kinds of shady practices. It was observed that there are no records of affidavits deposed to at the court making it difficult to authenticate the genuiness of filed affidavits. It was suggested that the office ofthe Commissioner for Oaths be streamlined and copies of affidavits sworn to at the court be retained to check proliferation of fake affidavits.

d. Improper Dressing by Judicial officers and other members of Staff: It was observed that the dressing of some judicial officers and court registrars are not in conformity with the demands of this profession. Some wear bright coloured shirts and dresses to sit in court. Court Registrars come in all manners of dresses like jeans, T Shirts, leggings etc. It is suggested that a dress code should be made and enforced for members of staff of the Judiciary to give more respectability to the courts.

e. Dressing by Lawyers: A dress code enforcement committee of the NBA should be set up to ensure that Lawyers are properly dressed for court appearances and Bar meetings. Lawyers wearing slippers, sandals and coloured shirts/dress to court should not be condoned. We recommend that the Chief Judge pass a circular to all courts that lawyers that are not properly dressed should not be given audience in the courts, while lawyers that are not properly dressed to Bar meetings should also not be given audience at such meetings. We also urge the Bar to bring it to the knowledge of our colleagues that wearing of bibs and any kind of display of wigs and gowns are only for the court and not around town or on the dashboard of our cars.

f. Applications for Orders, Rulings and Judgements: The impunity with which court clerks, Registrars and typists ask for money before making available copies of hearing notices, orders, rulings and judgement was discussed. It has indeed reached an alarming proportion.
The position of the 1999 constitution in S 294(1) is that rulings and judgements be delivered within ninety days after the conclusion of evidence and final addresses and the court must furnish all parties to the cause or matter determined with duly authenticated copies of the decision within seven days of the delivery thereof. This was the practice in this jurisdiction until a few years ago. It is sad to note that while the courts comply with the first part of this law by delivering judgement within ninety days of final addresses, the other part of making copies of the decision available within seven days is no longer complied with. This has gone a long way in encouraging extortion of litigants and parties by court officials who charge unreasonable fees before making the copies available. Part of the reasons given for this unwholesome practice by some registrars range from lack of stationeries to inability to read the handwriting of the judge/magistrate thereby necessitating the need to take the judgements to business centers to type out. It was suggested that the constitutional requirements should be strictly adhered to. All necessary facilities for the production of hearing notices, orders, rulings and judgement should be made available by the judiciary. Our honourable judges and magistrates should ensure that typed copies of their rulings and judgements are made available to parties as required of them by the law in order to avoid the unpleasantness and embarrassment that will attend a petition being written against them by an aggrieved party. It is important to note that it is the head of such a court that will be called to question and not the supporting staff. We recommend that the leadership of the Bar take this matter up with the Honourable Chief Judge.We also recommend in the alternative that if it is not possible (for economic reasons) for the documents to be made available free of charge, appropriate fees should be fixed for payment to the treasury to get the documents.

g. Training of Judiciary Staff: Magistrates, Area Court judges and other court officials should have periodic trainings organized for them in conjunction with NBA to sharpen their skills and enhance productivity.

h. Lateness of courts in sitting: It was observed that some judicial officers have developed the habit of sitting late constantly without any regard for the appropriate time of court sittings or apology or explanation to members of the Bar.
It is recommended that if any court does not sit by 9.15am (except where courtrooms are being shared) and there is no message from the Judge, Magistrate or Area Court Judge, the most senior lawyer in court should lead others to walk out on such a court.

i. High Court Offa: It was observed that the Judge at the Offa High Court was on National assignment for about one year paralyzing the court. It was recommended that another judge be transferred to Offa while the idea of the sole judge sitting in a jurisdiction going on national assignment should be seriously discouraged.

j. Lack of Etiquette among lawyers:The lack of respect and etiquette by our junior colleagues was also discussed. Some juniors have no respect for seniors, very rude in conduct and speech to their colleagues as well as even to the court at times. Some are so bad that it is difficult to believe they are lawyers. The Bar should not hesitate to deal with such bad eggs.

k. NBA Seal: Lawyers should desist from the habit of giving their seals to lawyers who have no seals so that we will not be aiding fake lawyers. Any law office where no lawyer in the office has a seal should be closed down. Our colleagues should raise objections to lawyers using other lawyer’s seals or using any suspicious seal. The idea of lawyers selling their seal to land agents or anyone whosoever should be treated as a professional misconduct and appropriate actions taken against such a member.

Sir J.S. Bamigboye SAN

Oluronke Adeyemi (Mrs.)