The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad said on Monday that lawyers who engaged in unprofessional conduct during court proceedings would be sanctioned.
Muhammad gave the warning while marking the 2020/2021 legal year and swearing-in the 72 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN).
The CJN was represented by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour.
Among the lawyers who became senior advocates today were Babatunde Ogala and Professor Bolaji Owasanoye.
Ogala was the former national legal secretary of the All Progressives Congress and Owasanoye, chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission [ICPC].
Muhammad appealed to lawyers, particularly the young ones to always observe all court rules and not mislead their clients for pecuniary gains.
“Apart from the mode of dressing which I have occasionally complained about, the conduct of some of them within and outside the courtrooms call for serious concern.
” Some have turned the court premises to press interview centres where they cast all manner of aspersions on judicial officers, especially when judgments do not favour them.
“Henceforth, severe sanctions will be meted out on them, therefore, they should always show the ability and capacity to counsel clients well.”
He said that obedience of lawful court orders has no alternative in any society.
“We must respect and observe all the tenets of an enduring democracy. Nigeria is not a lawless society and no one, irrespective of his or her status, should turn it to one.
” Most times, some persons, who by sheer stroke of providence find themselves in positions of authority, flagrantly disobey lawful court orders, and even boast about it.
“Such acts will henceforth not be condoned. In fact, they will be met with severe consequences and we must therefore extinguish such raging fire before it consumes us all”.
According to him, ‘the Correctional Centres are not there for decoration, such literally incorrigible and obstinate elements in our midst must be tutored in those centres to deter the several others eagerly waiting in the wings to embark on such inglorious expedition.
” The court will not only bark but will bite harder and deeper too,” he warned.
The CJN also added that the apex court in the 2019/2020 legal year had a total of 908 cases, comprising of motions and appeals.
“Out of the number, we heard 497 civil, 168 criminal and 35 political matters, thus amounting to a total of 700 motions.
” The court also considered a total number of 208 appeals, being 134 civil, 52 criminal and 22 political appeals and also, a total of 189 judgments were given within the legal year under review”.
He also noted the apex court disposed of 52 corruption and financial crime cases, the court of appeal, 121 cases, Federal High Court, 19, FCT High Court 10 cases and all state High Courts, 188 cases.
All the speakers called for collective efforts for an improved and respectable judicial system.
The speakers included the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami represented by the Solicitor General, Dayo Akpata, SAN, and Prof. B. O Nwabueze, SAN, who represented the body of SANs.
Others are Olumide Akpata, President, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and Obafemi Adewale who spoke on behalf of the New Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
The absence of the CJN was noticed at about 10.02am when the other 19 Justices of the apex court filed into the courtroom, marking the commencement of the programme.
The reason for Justice Muhammad’s absence was not disclosed as the event began immediately with the administering of oaths to the new SANs.
The event was presided over by the next most Senior Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, in the absence of the CJN.
The inauguration of new SANs always held during the ceremony marking the commencement of the new legal year of the Supreme Court has always been presided by the sitting CJN.
Justice Muhammad’s absence from the Monday’s event appears to be unplanned as only on December 7, 2020, the Director of Press of the Supreme Court, Dr. Festus Akande, disclosed in a statement that the CJN would preside over the event and give an address on the state of the nation’s judiciary as well as the Supreme Court’s plan for the new 2020/2021 legal year.