Lagos State Acting CJ Promises Sweeping Reforms @ 2017 Bar/Bench Forum


As part of activities held to mark the commencement of the 2017/2018 Legal Year in Lagos State, all roads led to the foyer of the Lagos State High Court on Tuesday, October 10, 2017 as the Acting Chief Judge of Lagos State, Hon. Opeyemi O. Oke and other members of the judiciary hosted members of the Bar and other stakeholders to a Bar/Bench Forum to deliberate on ways to join forces in the quest for an effective and formidable justice delivery regime in the state.

In her remarks of welcome, Justice Oke reminded attendees of her commitment towards the actualization of her stated mandate, namely to eliminate the ills militating against effective justice delivery and compromising the quality of service (to the public at large, and to lawyers in particular) by judicial staffers. Far from being convened just to ‘fulfill all righteousness,’ Justice Oke stated that the Forum was meant to foster mutual understanding and synergy between the Bar and the Bench, a synergy without which neither arm of the legal profession can survive – let alone succeed.

Mr. Tunde Fagbohunlu, SAN

NBA-SBL Vice Chairman, Seni Adio, SAN
Sylvia Ogbuemoh, SAN
Chief Registrar of Lagos State, Mrs. A. O. Soladoye.
NBA Lagos Chairman, Chukwuka Ikwuazom
Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN; Hon. Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, SAN and the acting Chief Judge of Lagos State, Hon. Justice O. O. Oke

The Acting CJ’s remarks were followed by those of the Honorable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, SAN, who expressed the belief that only this kind of feedback can generate the ideas necessary to move the dispensation of justice forward, considering the well-earned status of the state’s judiciary as a pace-setter, not just in Nigeria, but in Africa as well.

Newswire Law and Events Magazine’s correspondent in Lagos reports that the highlight of the Forum was the keynote address by the guest speaker, Chief Wole Olanipekun, OON, SAN. Titled “Promoting A Pace-Setting & Productive Judiciary in Lagos State,” Olanipekun’s presentation traced the historical origins of the ‘legal year’ concept; the history of the judiciary in Lagos and its pioneering role in Nigerian jurisprudence; the indispensability of religious faith and piety in the life and work of every jurist; the complementary role of support staff in the work of the court; and the ‘anomaly’ (as he saw it) of appointing Chief Judges and Chief Justices in an acting capacity. Chief Olanipekun ended his well-received presentation by admonishing other members of the judiciary, judicial staff and members of the Bar to support the Acting CJ, Hon. Justice O. O. Oke in her reform efforts, stating that her success was theirs as well.

Responses to Chief Olanipekun’s presentation came thick and fast, as Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, SAN of the University of Lagos suggested an amendment of the last line of oaths in court to read, “If I give false evidence, may the judgment of God fall on me,” to replace the conventional “So help me God.”  In his contribution, Mr. Tunde Fagbohunlu, SAN cited the infamous perjury conviction against the celebrated British author Lord Jeffrey Archer in calling for tougher sanctions against perjury in Nigeria. Lagos State Attorney-General Adeniji Kazeem, in his own remarks, assured the assembly that the issue of the judges serving in acting capacity would be resolved shortly by the state government, inspite of the huge logistics challenges involved. He also praised the state government’s efforts aimed at improving forensic evidence, especially in criminal cases – as shown in the recent establishment of a DNA and Forensic Centre. Other respondents included the Chairperson of the Lagos State Magistrates Association; the Chairmen of the NBA Ikeja and Lagos branches; foremost lawyer Deacon Dele Adesina, SAN and the vice-chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association’s Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL), Mr. Seni Adio, SAN.

In her concluding remarks, Hon. Justice Opeyemi O. Oke declared that though her planned reforms might seem like ‘Mission Impossible,’ they would be actualized with the cooperation of the Bar. She enumerated these reforms to include an oath of allegiance and secrecy among judicial and non-judicial staffers. In addition, she said, all court registrars would henceforth be trained lawyers in addition to being civil servants. On the vexed issue of lengthy delays in court dates and judges’ schedules, Justice Oke disclosed that legal counsels billed to appear in court would have access to judges’ diaries to ascertain their schedules as far as court appearances are concerned. She also announced that her office would maintain a robust presence on the 3 main social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – to facilitate an effective and open interaction with the public.

The Forum came to an end with the vote of thanks by the Chief Registrar of Lagos State, Mrs. A. O. Soladoye.

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