NJC bars erring judges from promotion over Conflicting Exparte Orders: Is this a real punishment or a slap on the wrist?

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By Bayo Akinlade Esq

I have just finished consulting for the British Council RoLac programme on Disciplinary mechanisms for the NBA, so when I saw the news coming out of the NJC, my first remark was ”Who is going to discipline the lawyers who filed these actions in the first place”.

While I was asking this question, I was informed that NBA-NEC was also discussing the issue and may have concluded that those involved from the Bar will also be disciplined, although I struggle to see how these will be achieved considering the current state of our legal profession, the provisions of the LPA and the LPDC.

BUT what now bothers me the most is that I get a call from a Senior Advocate of Nigeria who read my observation and drew my attention to the following facts which has now moved me to write this piece.

The SAN asked:

  1. What if the said judges are not interested in any promotion
  2. What if the said judges are soon to retire
  3. Is promotion to the court of appeal automatic
  4. The presiding chair of the NJC is an interested party through her lordship’s marital considerations

When one critically considers these questions, one has to now ask in sincerity if the conclusions of the NJC can be considered as punishment for the erring judges.

I agree with the SAN that these judges should be dismissed from service if truly the findings of the NJC is that the judges allowed themselves to be used “as a tool”.

Now, if this is the punishment for the judges, I wonder what kind of punishment will be befitting for the lawyers involved.

I am interested to hear from NBA-NEC what has been agreed upon and whether they even have the powers to implement their decisions.

In all, I am not really impressed with the way things are going in the judiciary and the legal profession as a whole.

One day we will inherit the good and bad of this profession and I hope I inherit more good than the bad so I aim to do my best to preserve it’s integrity and play my part the best I can.

I urge the NJC, BoB, BOSAN, NBA LEADERSHIP and Lawyers in places of influence to have a rethink…. The future of these Profession lies in your hands at this point of history.

Excerpt from Nigeria lawyer:

The meeting which was chaired by the Deputy Chairman of Council, Hon. Justice Mary Peter-Odili, CFR agreed with the recommendations of the Investigation Committee set up in September 2021 that Hon. Justice Okogbule Gbasam of the High Court of Rivers State be barred from elevation to higher Bench for two years whenever he is due, as he failed to exercise due diligence in granting the Exparte Order in Suit No: PHC/2183/CS/2021 between IBEALWUCHI EARNEST ALEX & 4 ORS AND PRINCE UCHE SECONDUS & ANOR, as there was no real urgency, in the circumstances of the matter, that would have required an Exparte Order.

His Lordship is also issued with a warning letter to be circumspect in granting such Exparte Orders in the future.

Council also resolved that Hon. Justice Nusirat I. Umar of the High Court of Kebbi State be barred from elevation to higher Bench for two years whenever due, having found fundamental defects and non-compliance with the law in granting the Exparte Order in Suit No: KB/HC/M.71/2021 between YAHAYA USMAN & 2 ORS AND PRINCE UCHE SECONDUS & ANOR.

He is also issued with a warning letter to be circumspect in granting such Exparte Orders in the future.

Hon. Justice Edem Ita Kooffreh of the High Court of Cross River State will not be promoted to higher Bench for five years for allowing himself to be used as a tool for “forum shopping” and abuse of Court process in Suit No: HC/240/2021 between Mr. ENANG KANUM WANI AND UCHE SECONDUS as it was evident that, in granting the Exparte Order, he was seised of earlier Orders of the High Courts of Rivers and Kebbi States, being Courts of coordinate jurisdiction with his.

He is also to receive warning letter to be circumspect in granting such Exparte Orders in the future.

The Council also placed him on its Watch-List for a period of two years.

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