Wale Babalakin, chairman of the Bi-Courtney Group of Companies, has called for a critical and urgent review of the nation’s judiciary.
Speaking on Thursday at the ongoing 2016 law week of the Lagos branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the senior lawyer said: “Where we are now is a melancholic decadence of a great institution.”
He recalled that the chief Justice of the old western region earned more than the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the 60s.
Babalakin said the judiciary he grew up knowing is totally different from what exists now.
He lamented the lost values and the lack of innovative ways of tackling issues prevalent, disclosing that the issues he identified about Nigeria’s judiciary in his 1986 doctoral thesis submitted to the Cambridge University are yet to be resolved.
“There have been no improvements; we still have unthinking responses to severe problems. Have you related the solution to the problem?” he asked.
On complaints about the appointment of judges, Babalakin held that Nigeria’s judiciary will remain the same until efforts are made to attract the best individuals to the bench.
“Our court system will work better when judges have superior intellect than even the best lawyers” he said, adding that a new method has to be found for the composition of the National Judicial Council.
He condemned the practice of promoting judges on the basis of seniority, noting that there are brilliant senior advocates of Nigeria who can be appointed to the bench as is done in the UK.
He also decried the poor quality of training available to young Nigerian lawyers, saying “this needs to be urgently addressed”.
“The legal training available today is totally unfair to lawyers,” he said.
He cited the example of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) decree which has not been critically appraised to see if it achieved its objectives.
“Law must remain the exclusive preserve of strong intellectuals; we need to reform the law; we have to rescue our profession,” he said.
Martin Ogunleye, chairman, Lagos Branch of the NBA, urged lawyers to save judicial time, adding that “we have to be creative and understand our position in this economic milieu.”
Two other lawyers, Funke Aboyade (SAN) and Deremi Durojaiye, aligned with Ogunleye, saying that time is money in law and that Nigeria would not lose anything by adopting latest technology in the administration of justice.