By Onozure Dania
- Taiwo O. Taiwo, is the second vice president of the Nigerian Bar Association NBA. He is also the former Chairman Lagos branch of NBA.He attended University of Ife where he read History and politics for his first degree before proceeding to the University of Ibadan where he studied law, he was called to the Bar in 1986 and has been in practice since then. In this interview, he spoke on Election Tribunals, on the Supreme Court, Constitutional Courts, Appointment of Judges and other related issues. Excerpts
BY next week Saturday, elections would have been over. As a legal practitioner, what are your expectations from the Election Petition Tribunals?
I expect that the Election Tribunals will be up to their oath of office in accordance to Honourable Justice Mahmoud Mohammed’s address during their swearing in, sometime in January on the does and don’ts and these are men of proven integrity. Surely we will get the best from them without rancour. And my only advice is that political gladiators should leave them alone to do their job and whatever judgement they deliver, should be accepted in good faith and anyone who is not satisfy can also appeal there is a forum for that up to the Supreme Court.
On the time stipulated for hearing of petition, do you think the period of 180 days is enough considering interlocutory orders that may come up?
The point is that we should learn to manage our time. Lawyers should also learn to do their job thoroughly so that there will be no room for this interlocutory injunctions. Because most Lawyers use this to delay hearing of substantive matters.
Election matters are to be handled specially and timely, so that you don’t have someone in a position he or she ought not to be for two, three years before he is removed and another comes in to start afresh. So I believe the interlocutory period has been taken care of. And the law says everything should be taken care of within this period of 180 days, anything short of this, the case should be thrown out.
Do you agree that the Supreme Court is overburdened that it cannot take appeals that are not less than eight years?
There is no Court in Nigeria that is not overburdened. From the High Court, except State that are viable legally like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Jos, Abuja and all the Courts of record are overburdened.
But I must say that the workload in the Supreme Court is enormous, of course I believe with time when people are discouraged from filing frivolous application and interlocutory appeal I think the workload of my Lords at the Supreme will be reduced. In Nigeria, we are very combatant, even matters that are supposed to be settle under the roof, in the conference table we take them to Court.
Today we have arbitration centres; ADR is there, I think it is better for people to explore other means of settling disputes because not all cases should be taken to Court. Can you imagine people taking the matters of Landlord and Tenant to the Supreme Court from the Magistrate up to the Supreme Court for 13 years? I think we need to overhaul the administration of Justice in Nigeria.
Do we need a Constitutional Court to deal with certain matters?
I believe that we need a specialized Court to deal with constitutional matters so that other courts can face other matters. For instance in Egypt and South Africa they have constitutional court so I think the time is ripe for Nigeria to establish a purely specialized court like we have the National Industrial Court whereas it has taken the yoke of labour related matters and issues of employment from the Court.
What is your opinion on the Federal High Judgment nullifying movement restriction during monthly environmental sanitation in Lagos state?
Well as I use to tell people, I don’t criticize judgement of Judges. Firstly, I am not a counsel to either of the party neither do I canvass for argument. I think anybody that is aggrieved should go to the appeal Court to challenge the decision of the Court. For me, I cannot query the decision of the Judges; it is only the appeal Court that can do things like that.
I think that is how the Judge sees it from the constitution and if Lagos state is not satisfy with the judgement, it should appeal against the decision.
Will you say there are too many lawyers in the country?
Not at all, it is because we are still developing as a country, there are many situations that need to be handled by lawyers.
Issues ofhuman rights
For instance the issue of prosecution by the police should be handled by the lawyers and even in every police station, there should be a lawyer who will advice the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and all other policemen even the one manning the station on issues of human right, abuses and others.
What is your take on remuneration of young Lawyers, do you think that they are not well paid.
Thank God we have a very vibrant president and if you are current with issues in national NBA, since the inception of the current president, you will agreed with me that it will be taken care of soon, even in the last NEC meeting which I am a member as the second Vice Chairman, the matter of remuneration for young lawyers came up and a decision was reached, but you know things like this are not automatic, though we are appealing to our members to comply in time, because we know most remuneration of lawyers are outrageous, it is not enticing, that is why most lawyers find their ways into other areas from the profession where they feel they can make more money.
When I was Chairman of NBA, Lagos branch we did a lot for Young Lawyers in terms of incentives, and other assistance to make them appreciate the legal profession.
What has been the reaction of the NBA on issues that has to do with the welfare of the people?
I think if you follow the activities of the present National president of NBA, Augustine Alegeh from inception, you will agree with me that NBA has been on top of issues affecting the people. The position of NBA on any issue is not influence by any party and NBA is always on the side of the people. We have a lot of probono services, the NBA is a mouthpiece of the people and we have been supporting people oriented issues.
For instance, we sensitized people on the need to collect the Permanent Voters Card (PVC), as well as how and the need to vote. We went on Television, held seminars and conferences. Even now there is an election monitoring group within the NBA saddled with the responsibility of making necessary data’s and information available to the NBA which will be forwarded to the national president.
I think it will be too wrong for anybody to say that NBA has loss its voice on issues of national interest. Except they want it to toe a line they would not want to.
Do you have reservations on the mode of appointing judges?
On appointment of judges, NBA has always said they should be carried along, because we know ourselves and it is good to appoint somebody who is practicing because if you have not been going to court what is your business on the bench? Right now we have put forward a proposal that the NBA must be part of appointment of judges.
What is your line of duty as a Vice President of NBA?
As the second vice President, I am in charge of a particular section of the country that is the Northern zone. I have been to most part of this zone and in my capacity; the President could delegate responsibility of duty to me. I can also represent the president in any function and we report back to him. We all have a schedule of duty.