The issue of corruption in the judiciary once again took center stage as Lagos State Judiciary marks the beginning of the 2021-2022 legal year. Both Christian and Islamic clerics look Lagos Judicial Officers straight in the face and remind them of the consequences of a corrupt justice system.
At the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos, Bishop Akin Atere admonished judges and lawyers to be just in all their dealings and to shun corrupt practices while interpreting the law.
Atere, the Lord Bishop of Awori Anglican Diocese, in a sermon titled: “The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength”, said the soul of Nigeria is in the hands of the judges because they determine almost all the key affairs of the nation.
Quoting Nehemiah 8: 9-12, the Bishop said there is going to be God’s judgment for all insincerity, perversion of justice and for all the vices in the Bench and Bar.
He said: “You are the interpreter of the Nigerian Bible called the constitution. We are all your congregation. You determine who owns the land, many have been saved by you, while many destinies have been altered. Many look unto you to have joy while others are put in perpetual sorrow”.
He said that the reason for the present predicament of the nation is not far-fetched from the fact that citizens have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.
Atere said if the book of the law is to be open for some members of the judiciary like the Israelites during the biblical times of Nehemiah, they will either cry, lament or cry for joy. “Some of us because of what will you give me, have been found giving judgments on cases already considered by other courts of concurrent jurisdiction;
“Some take bribe for favourable judgments, what about tactical delay or frustration of cases that will not allow parties to proceed to the substantive matter because they have been mobilized;
“In some cases, judgments depend on how much is in your purse, your position in government and the society. Favouritism, nepotism, tribalism, self interest has almost taken over from equity and fairness,”he said.
Bishop Atere also decried some of the corrupt practices of lawyers which has clogged the wheel of justice in the country.
“What about the corrupt practices by lawyers? The seeking of unnecessary adjournments, application to delay the duration of cases and attempt to bribe judges to pervert justice? How about the bribing of court clerks to remove sensitive information from a case file or to refuse to list a case on a cause list. What of connivance in doctoring the wishes of the deceased after their demise?
He said further: “Many times lawyers are found falsifying and doctoring documentary evidence. So many evil things we do because of money or fame,” he said.
He therefore called on erring judges and lawyers to repent of their wrongs and to be voices of the voiceless and the defender of the defenceless in the society.
During the service, a bible reading from the book of 2nd Chronicles 19:4-7 was read by Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye, the Administrative Judge of the Ikeja Judicial Division of the Lagos State Judiciary, who represented the Chief Judge, Justice Kazeem Alogba.
At the Islamic service, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, Lagos State University(LASU), Ustadh Kabir Paramọlẹ, who spoke on the topic “Essence of Effective Administration of Justice ìn Nigeria” at the Central Mosque, Lagos stated that it would bẹ difficult for the country to move forward without Justice.
Prof. Paramọlẹ admonished judges to have the fear of Allah and deliver justice with fairness. “Those of you who are just and fair when delivering justice, on the day of resurrection, you shall ṣee the face of Almighty Allah”, he said.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu assured the judiciary of continuous cooperation and support to ensure improved access to justice by all Lagosians irrespective of social and economic status.
The governor who was represented by the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Olarewaju Elegushi at the Lagos Central Mosque assured the judiciary of the continued support of his administration.
He said in spite of challenges “especially the mindless destruction and vandalisation of Igbosere High court, the oldest court building in Nigeria, the judicial system has continued to function effectively and efficiently.
He commend the Chief Judge Justice Alogba and the entire members of the Lagos State Judiciary for the success recorded in the last legal year ìn spite of challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the EndSars protest which was hijacked by hoodlums to wreak havoc on public and private assets. “This is a reflection of the quality of leadership and commitment of the entire members of the judicial arm”‘ he noted.
He gave assurance that his administration remained committed to the ongoing reconstruction of Igbosere High Court and renovation of others courts including the digitization project aimed at enhancing speedy dispensation of justice, which is one of the objectives of the security and governance pillar of his administration’s T.H.E.M.E.S agenda.
The Chief Judge, Justice Alogba, ìn his address, assured the people of the State of improved performance ìn the new legal year. He said ìn spite of the burning of Igbosere High Court by Endsars protesters, Lagos judiciary is back ìn uts feet and poised to perform better ìn the new legal year.
The Diocesan and Missioner, The Most Revd. Dr. Humphrey Bamisebi Olumakaiye, presided over the Special Service. Mr. Moyosore Jubril Onigbanjo SAN the Attorney General of Lagos State, and High Chief Adesoji Ajayibembe, the Obanikoro of Lagos, represented the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu.
Judicial dignitaries and legal personalities graced the event in their monotone attire and wigs. A true representation of the pillars of our judicial system in Nigeria.