I have been inundated with calls, messages and e-mails over my interventions and or contributions in respect of the discourse on the welfare of Judges in Nigeria. The tone for the discussion was set by my revered Senior and Learned Brother Silk, Ikeazor Akaraiwe whose great contributions has generated several other meaningful robust comments and interventions that have brought to the fore various challenges in the justice sector and also proffer far-reaching solutions.
It is pertinent for me to state from the onset that I am fully in support of impactful reforms in our judiciary and by extension in the justice sector. As a legal practitioner of almost 30years post call experience and a former Attorney-General in Oyo State, I cannot claim ignorance of the issues and challenges bedeviling the justice sector in our country because I had in my official capacity resolved, admirably, some of those recurring issues in Oyo State between 2011 -2015.
I plead for understanding of all the stakeholders in the sector not to misconstrue my earlier interventions on this issue as a denigration of our judicial officers. I have had cause in the past and even till now to rise in the defence of our judiciary whenever any attempt was made or being made to intimidate, harass and or ridiculing our judicial officers and judiciary, and I pledge to continue doing so.
My contention, however , is that I do not believe in tokenism approach to the resolution of the myriad of problems in our justice sector . Rather, I am fully in support of holistic institutional developments and reforms in the sector and not self enhancement of individual judge. We need to develop strong institutions and not strong individuals. This is because once our system is set on auto-pilot, the individuals in the sector would also be carried along, whereas if the former approach is adopted , the system would be left behind and stagnant while the enhanced individual would go away with all improvements and developments since they are personal and limited to the judex .
Let me say and reiterate my earlier point that in implementing justice sector reforms, we must never use the emoluments of elected politicians and political appointees as benchmark or basis of comparism if we are to have enduring system in place in the justice sector. I say this because the day of reckoning for our elected politicians and politicians is almost here . Mark my words, all the discreet, bogus , jumbo and unmeritorious emoluments and allowances they( politicians) are earning now would soon become history. May that day never come when our judicial officers would be lumped and categorised with those callous and unreasonable politicians.
Our judiciary is one of the best in the Commonwealth and indeed globally, we must therefore not join that maddening crowd.
The areas where reforms are very necessary and critical in the justice sector include but not limited to prompt payment of salaries and allowances of all in the sector ( paralegal staff magistrates, judges , registrars etc) . There must also be a review of same to be in tune with the current inflationary trend and cost of living in the country.
We must allow true federalism to operate as it won’t augur well to impose uniform wages across the states of the federation because financial capacities of states differ while also the volume of works also vary from state to state and from courts to courts.
Next is the provision of conducive and friendly working environment together with the availability of basic modern tools and equipment to work with.
The provision of information technologies, research assistance , regular power supply and good water system are also very key and vital.
This conversation must certainly continue and I have implicit and absolute confidence in the incumbent Honourable Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the Federation, Prince Lateef O. Fagbemi, SAN to be the game-changer in our justice sector and herald in all the necessary and anticipated reforms in the sector. We should all rally round and support our respected and revered HAGF to succeed in this regard.
Dated this 12th September, 2023
JCI Senator Mutalubi Ojo Adebayo, SAN
Asiwaju of Ita-Ege & Idi-Aro,
Ward 5, Ibadan South-East Local Government Area,
Oyo State of Nigeria