‘Proper case management systems will weed out frivolous cases’

Ada Obinna Chika Edozie was  the first female Vice-Chairman of the Onitsha branch of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). She is a member of the Council of Legal Education and a life member of the International Federation of Female  Lawyers ( FIDA). In this interview with Legal Editor, JOHN AUSTIN UNACHUKWU Edozie shares her views on justice sector reforms, problem of young lawyers, legal education and sundry national issues.

Justice sector reforms have been a challenge in this country. How can we reform our legal system to fast-track justice dispensation?

A lot has been said on the area of justice reform and challenges facing the administration of justice in the country. There have been suggestions and contribution from different actors, but, unfortunately, some of these interventions  have been neglected and the ones that were followed up have been hindered by lack of full implementation.

Can you give us an example?

For example the radical reforms introduced by the Administration of criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 and the Administration of Criminal Justice Laws (ACJL) of various states of the federation are there for all to behold. They all contain innovative provisions which are geared towards speedy and accurate dispensation of justice. But the law  has not really achieved the desired goal envisaged by the framers of the law because of lack of implementation and other militating factors that have hampered their efficacy.

So what do we do in cases like this?

While it is good to make laws and introduce innovative ideas in our justice system. It is also important that adequate facilities should be put in place in the relevant institutions to ensure the implementation of those ideas. One needs to ask this important question; are most of our courts (courtrooms, registries and other sections), Police stations and Ministries of Justice properly equipped in terms of staff quality and  infrastructure  to ensure speedy dispensation of justice? Unfortunately, the answer is in the negative and most times the Judges who are made to work with insufficient materials are made to bear the brunt of these inadequacies.

So what is your conclusion on this matter?

I agree with most writers on this discuss that there is need for legislative reforms but I also hold the view that legislative and institutional reforms should go hand in hand to ensure a holistic and practical reform in our justice system.

There are serious concerns about the declining standards of legal practice and ethics in the legal profession,  as a practitioner how do we address these challenges?

I do not think that this problem is peculiar to legal practice. The decline in standards is also visible in other disciplines and professions in Nigeria and it is indeed a national issue. This trend only shows one thing; that there has been serious deviation from the standards of training or level of training and values of our professionals including those of us in the legal profession. In as much as I admit that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which is the body responsible for all practitioners, has a great role to play in this regard, I also hold the view that the focus should not be on the NBA alone but other relevant institutions which are responsible for the overall upbringing and training of our professionals should be examined as well. The family and educational institutions (primary, secondary and tertiary) should interact to preserve our core values and ethos.

What do you mean by this?

I mean that when these institutions perform their roles perfectly well, little will be left to be done by the NBA and other professional bodies  to protect and sustain the standards of legal practice and ethics in the legal profession. I am also aware that the Legal Practitioner’s Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) has taken the bull by the horn and has been able to sanction legal practitioners that have derailed from the laid down rules of professional ethics and conduct. I think more sanctions should be imposed on those that are caught on the wrong side of our ethical rules in order to uphold the standard of the legal profession.

The Judiciary has received serious bashing  in recent times from law enforcement agencies of the federal government in fighting corruption. What is your reaction to this?

Yes and not just only from the law enforcement agencies of the Federal Government fighting corruption but also from gullible members of the public. But one should not be surprised. In fact such should be expected and I will tell you why.

Why?

When some of the prosecutorial  agencies are in court to prosecute their matters, they fail to dot the Is and cross the Ts of their case by failing to ensure that proper investigations  are  carried out before the cases are brought before the court. That is to say that they fail to do thorough in-house appraisal and analysis of their cases to ensure that their evidence and their cases as a whole is coherent and, if I should say, water tight.

Read Also: Female lawyers celebrate with less-privileged children in Ekiti

 

Without doubt proper investigation of cases and having the necessary evidence is a sine qua non to securing conviction or getting judgment in court, as the case may be. It is neither through sentiments, emotions nor propaganda that cases are won. Today, we see situations where some of these agencies rush to court and want to hurriedly secure convictions without taking the proper steps. They ought to know that the primary duty of the court is to deliver justice evenly and as Justice Niki Tobi (JSC) of blessed memory would say; justice is not for the prosecution alone, it is also for the accused person and the society at large.

Therefore where these agencies fail to do  the basic things they are suppose to do, they turn around to heap the blame on the doors of the court and the judiciary at large and some members of the public who do not understand these basic legal requirements are cowed to blindly follow them.

The truth is that no matter how intimidating or beautifully couched the charges usually proffered by these agencies may appear, if the prosecution fails  to present the proper evidence before the court, his case must hit the rock. There is no emotion or sentiment about it and justice is not a trial and error game or a media popularity/publicity show and some members of the public do not know these things. They are carried away by media reports that throw weight behind these agencies who bash our judges without knowing that these agencies most of the time, fail in their duty to provide material evidence which the court can rely on in convicting persons on trial before it. This is why justice is said to be blind. It does not know the parties before it, be it rich, poor, the leader or the led. Everyone is equal before the temple of justice and prosecutorial agencies are not exempted from playing on a fair ground with other participants.

So, I am not and will not be surprised by the bashings  received by the judiciary. It has always been there and will continue because the judicial system requires due diligence and those who fail to do so usually resort to blame games or name calling.

What is your advice on this?

The law enforcement agencies therefore should up their game and ensure frivolous cases are not brought close to court. I am aware that most of them have good record of successful prosecution of several high profile cases even up to the Supreme Court. That is commendable and should be maintained so that they can get that support they hope to get from the court.

How do you think we can expedite speedy dispensation of justice in the country?

The issue of ways of speedy dispensation of justice in this country has become an everyday topic in different seminars and fora. I am aware that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, the Administration of Criminal Justice Laws of different States of the Federation and Civil Procedure Rules of the various courts within the country have introduced some innovations towards quick and faster disposal of matters. In some courts, some days are clearly set out for the hearing of criminal cases. These innovations are commendable but more steps needs to be taken to achieve better results.

Some people have canvassed the idea of establishing special courts in the country. What is your views on this?

I believe that there is need to establish more courts, especially special courts to deal with special matters or special areas of law. This will go a long way to decongest our already existing structures and encourage specialisation which will enhance productivity. There is also need to appoint more judges to man these courts and where there is a vacuum due to retirement or promotion of a judicial officer, the relevant bodies should act quickly to fill the vacuum in order to prevent a scenario where matters in court are left unattended to.

Also, adequate case management system should be employed by the courts so that cases which could be settled at the pretrial stage can easily be dispensed with without need for the rigours of a full trial.

Your branch law week is around the corner. What is the topic for this year’s event and the reason it was chosen?

The law week is going to hold from the 11th to 15th day of December, 2019. The theme for Onitsha branch Law week this year is Protecting the Legal Profession from Extinction, Adulteration and Infiltration. This theme is very significant at a time like this because of the roles played by the legal profession in the society. This theme presents an opportunity for us to be reminded once again the core values of the profession which are: fairness, equity and justice. There is need to guard the ethics of the profession jealously with a view to maintaining  its sacrosanct role in the society.

Who and who are expected to attend the law week? Are you honouring anybody personal or corporate?

The law week will commence on December 11, 2019 with health walk. We expect serious players in the justice sector to attend. This includes: Judges of the High Courts and Justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. We also expect Senior Advocates of Nigeria, legal practitioners, professionals  from different walks of life. Persons that have distinguished themselves in the profession and other areas of life will be recognised and honoured.

What are the other highlights of the occasion?

Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) will give the keynote speech, Mr. Dele Adesina (SAN) and Mr. Olumide Akpata are all expected to be part of the law week. We will recognize the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willy Maduabuchi Obiano, the fourth female Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Anambra State, Dr. Uju Nwogu, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu ( SAN) who has always been there for us as a father, Chief Arthur Obi Okafor ( SAN) for his outstanding support for the branch, Mr. Alex Ejesieme (SAN) for his contributions.

 

©2018 VivaLasGidi

Design by Deo360.com

CONTACT US

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Sending
Welcome neighbour!

Log in with your credentials

or    

Forgot your details?

Create Account