Twenty Senior Advocates of Nigeria, under the aegis of The Justice Reform Project, have described the corruption allegations against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, as “a manifestation of deeper malaise” in the nation’s judiciary.
The SANs, who said they were deeply embarrassed by the Onnoghen saga, said it pointed to the need for urgent reforms in the judiciary.
They admitted that there were cases of litigants and lawyers procuring court judgements and orders, saying the spate of conflicting judgements being churned by judges is one proof of the corruption and incompetence in the system.
As a result of the rot, the SANs noted with regret, that unlike in the past, judgements from Nigerian courts were no longer being cited with approval in foreign courts.
From the composition of the National Judicial Council, to the process of appointing judges, to the criteria for the award of the SAN rank and others, the SANs said the system needed to be reformed.
They said these in a statement on Saturday, which they jointly signed.
Those who signed the statement are Mr Ebun Sofunde, Mr Kayode Sofola, Kola Awodein, Ademola Akinrele, Dr Eyimofe Atake, Mrs Olufunke Adekoya, Oluwafemi Atoyebi, Mr Yemi Candide-Johnson, Olasupo Shasore, Dr Babatunde Ajibade, Osaro Eghobamien, and Mr Babatunde Fagbohunlu.
Others are Mr Wemimo Ogunde, Mr Jibrin Okutepa, Mr Olumide Sofowora, Prof Ernest Ojukwu, Mr Olatunde Adejuyigbe, Dr Adewale Olawoyin, Mr Adeniyi Adegbonmire, and Mr Oyesoji Oyeleke.
The group said, “Certain facts are hardly contestable.There is a widespread perception that there is corruption in the judiciary and this perception is supported by anecdotal evidence.
“Unscrupulous litigants and some complicit lawyers, including some Senior Advocates, procure judgments and orders by corrupt means. It is also beyond dispute that the system for self-regulation in the judiciary and the legal profession has failed. Lack of transparency and a depreciation of the basic ethos of governance in the processes and procedures of the relevant institutions lies at the very heart of the challenges that the Bench and the Bar are currently facing.”
The SANs declared their resolve to engage with other stakeholders in the judiciary towards reforming the system.