We came, we saw, but didn’t conquer

Ogunsakin Mustapha
7 Min Read
Bayo Akinlade, NLS Publicity Secretary

The Lamentations of Judges on Retirement.

By Bayo Akinlade, Esq

These days we hear Judges/Justices at their retirement speak frankly and honestly about their time on the Bench with a no holds barred mentality/attitude. They literally lament about the bad state of the nation, the decay within the justice delivery Sector and the inadequate welfare packages for lawyers serving on the Bench.

Now, let’s face it, we all know how bad things are with the judiciary. We don’t need to hear it from retiring judges and magistrates and we certainly do not need to cry over spilt milk.

A senior colleague had asked why this trend by these judges speaking up only after retirement, another senior lawyer responded “The Judges are to be seen but not heard”….Really?

Many on the Bench believe that they cannot speak out or speak up about the challenges they face while on the Bench and I think to myself: *Where in the world did they get this idea from.*

The legal profession is all about social engineering and re-engineering. It’s about protecting the weak against the overbearing powers of the strong, it’s about maintaining societal balance etc. In fact let me get very academic here just in case those on the bench have forgotten some fundamental principles of law:

We were taught at the University and at law school about *Judge-made laws* . A very interesting principle which in summary allows a judge to interpret the law in such a way as to extract another principle of law which by its very nature and process becomes law until the legislature actually codifies it (has it written down)

Judge-made laws, also known as common law, are important for several reasons:

1. *Adaptability* : Judge-made laws are flexible and can adapt to evolving societal norms and values. Judges can interpret and apply existing laws in ways that address contemporary issues and challenges.

2. *Precedent* : Common law relies on precedent, which means decisions from past cases serve as guidance for future ones. This consistency and predictability in legal decisions contribute to stability and fairness in the legal system.

3. *Filling Gaps:* In situations where legislation is unclear or doesn’t exist, judges can create legal principles and rules to address these gaps, ensuring that justice is still served.

4. *Responsiveness* : Common law allows judges to respond to emerging legal and ethical dilemmas promptly, without waiting for legislative action. This can be especially important in fast-changing areas such as technology and civil rights.

5. *Customization* : Judges can tailor their decisions to the unique circumstances of individual cases, providing a nuanced and context-specific approach to justice.

6. *Checks and Balances:* Judge-made law functions as a check on the other branches of government, ensuring that the executive and legislative branches do not overstep their constitutional authority.

In summary, judge-made laws play a vital role in maintaining a dynamic and equitable legal system, capable of adapting to the evolving needs of society while upholding the rule of law.

NOW I ask every serving judge and magistrate one simple question: *what in the world makes you think you can’t change the trajectory of the nation and the judiciary in particular with all the powers you possess as Judges?.*

Why in God’s green earth would you think that the Executive arm or the Legislature has any hold over your independence or financial autonomy?

To my brave judges and magistrates let me lay it bear for you: *you are in charge of your court.* The cases that come before you are an opportunity to reinvent and redirect our nation’s economic and social pathways.

Don’t be giving us excuses at your retirement and telling us how bad things are; when you had many years on the Bench to speak up and dispense justice …. YES SPEAK UP!

It is a lie that judges are only to be seen but not heard…. Judges speak louder than anyone else. Judges speak up through their judgements, their rulings, their orders and their directives.

If the police is messing up, throw a few in jail, if politicians are diverting your judiciary funds; make orders against the State and Federal Government that will send shivers down their spines… A judge is a whole lawyer, the bench is only made up of lawyers so why the fear to handle a few illiterate garage boys who managed to rig elections and get away with it?

Judges and magistrates should grow a pair and stop cowering under the elusive fear of political thuggery.

I am not focusing here about how a lawyer becomes a judge, whether it’s by hook or crook, I am not interrogating their motives BUT for goodness sake, STEP UP! Use your exhaulted seat to do the Job only our Creator is best at doing!

Nigerians are tired of hearing how bad things are….. All we know is that the JUDICIARY IS THE 3RD ARM OF GOVERNMENT POPULATED BY ONLY ONE PROFESSION so what’s the excuse?

Bayo Akinlade Esq is the National Publicity of the Nigerian Law Society (NLS), Convener of Fight Against Corruption in the Judiciary, and the Citizens Support for Lower Courts.

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