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Lawyers and the quest for justice in Nigeria

The truth is every society must have its own laws and guidelines that regulate the actions of all. A lawless society is prone to becoming…

The truth is every society must have its own laws and guidelines that regulate the actions of all. A lawless society is prone to becoming inhabitable as members of the community would endeavour in acts that are inhumane, unjust and lack sanity which in return is not good for a progressive society. Therefore, it is necessary for community heads and leaders to reach a consensus in order to formulate laws, principles and rules that would govern all individual regardless of their differences.

Indeed, the duty of legal practitioners in Nigeria is crux. They play an integral role in the administration of justice, governance and are administers of the Judiciary. The judiciary being one of the three Arms of Government is saddled with the responsibility of interpreting laws as contained in Section 6(6) of the Constitution. However, it is not without its confrontations.

One of the challenges engaging this entity is the oversight and intimidation of other Arms in its businesses. This can pose a threat in the administration of justice because interference will hinder the effectiveness of this municipal to properly manage its affairs. Regardless, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has fostered support to the judicial system by showing his commitment in advancing judicial reforms and encouraging autonomy of the body. This play shows that the apex office in the executive visualises the idea that both entities can bring resources together to ensure the administration of justice is strengthened.

Every court has its own rules. These rules assist the court in a fair and quick dispensation of justice. Consequently, it assists counsel in presenting their case within the ambit of the governing laws of the court. Strict compliance with these rules necessitates the proper understanding of the procedures that must be followed in order to obtain a sound decision. It is trite to say that the court never uses its rules to defeat the access to justice as guaranteed by the constitution

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi SAN, made it a task to ensure that law and justice is active and any form of inadequacy is paralysed. At a recent press briefing, he said “the country cannot afford to remain complacent in the face of the obstacles impeding the efficient delivery of justice for all Nigerians.” I believe this gesture made by the minister will open the mind of the populace that adequate actions are being taken to pledge that the system’s value be sustained.

Secondly, the use of technicalities by lawyers in wasting of courts’ precious time may “ease delay” in getting a prompt resolution. This effort has proved to be a negative tale in the relationship between the court and counsel in giving a timeous verdict in the adjudication of disputes. In the case of OLUYEMO v. TITILAYO (2009) ALL FWLR PART 485 AT 1686, the court held that delay tactics defeat equity. As such, it is anticipatory of counsel to effortlessly try to foster that litigation is brought to an end by a quick and fair proceedings.

Lawyers are obligated to uphold the law, abstain from bringing contempt to court orders, and restrain from undue delay of proceedings. Also, rendering of any service involving the disobedience of the law, or holders of any public office is prohibited. Counsel must at all times remember that he is a helper in the administration of justice.

In addition, Rule 15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct provides that, it is necessary for every legal representative to represent within the bounds of the law. All acts and efforts must relate with the established position of the law. Professionally, a legal practitioner should endeavour to not advice clients to neither forsake the law nor commit any offence against the state.

As such, any lawyer found wanting of an unlawful act, give advice that has criminal elements or breach of law may be liable to the same punishment for such offence as well as the client if the outcome of the act or advice leads to the commission of a crime. In any of these circumstances, neither the immunity nor client and counsel privilege can save him from being prosecuted.

No citizen should be denied of his or her right of access to court. This position is reiterated in Fidelity Bank Plc v. Monye (2012) AFWLR (Pt. 631) Pg. 1412. However, in as much as the principle in this case must be applied, it is unethical for counsel to instigate action. Likewise, matters filed for trivial reasons or frustrate another must be struck out. This will enable the court to have prior notice and time to peruse impending court processes before hearing.

Finally, necessary measures must be in place to facilitate and ensure the effectiveness of justice. The duty of upholding the law is not limited to the government or any of its agencies. It is a collective effort of all and importantly, lawyers. In the case of FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA v. SEGUN (2011) LPELR – 1453 (CA), the court upheld that lawyers play an important role in ensuring that justice is delivered as they are the backbone of society.

God Bless Nigeria!!!


Mohammed, Esq. resides in Abuja and wrote via [email protected], 09030464512

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