By Innocent Anaba
Justice Centus Nweze of the Supreme Court, has called for the review of training curriculum used in training Nigerian lawyers to enable the country produce young lawyers that will have audience in international courts and foreign jurisdictions.
Justice Nweze at the monthly meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Abuja branch, hosted by the law firm of J-K Gadzama LLP at its corporate headquarters in Abuja, said “We must thank Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN, who first intimated me of this meeting and the imminence of my encounter with the distinguished members of this branch this evening. His specific entreaty to me was to tailor my reflections to the challenges of young lawyers. That entreaty dictated the choice of issues which we shall broach in this presentation.
“We canvass the view that law scholars in Nigeria should re-imagine the intellectual content and breadth of their fields of study. They should now be thinking of moulding and shaping future advocates who would have audience not only in Nigerian courts but also in the global community of courts
“This is even more so since Nigerians are found in virtually all corners of the globe. These Nigerians in the Diaspora are either engaged in transnational trades or businesses or other forms of endeavour. “The question may be posed: of what use would the Nigerian lawyer be to such global Nigerians if the contract law curriculum, for example, does not transcend the traditional English Law assumptions?
“Do Law Faculties teach their students about the norms of international Contract law? The world’s emerging lex mercatoria: the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts? Or the UN Convention on Contracts for international sale of goods? “How many Law Faculties in Nigeria teach their students that the World Trade Organisation, WTO, dispute settlement regime possesses an attribute that international law lacks, namely, effective enforcement mechanisms?
“Incidentally, as has been observed elsewhere, the WTO dispute resolution mechanism possesses the allure of an international legal regime with efficacious mechanisms, and hence a simple and compelling answer to realist sceptics who doubt that international law is really ‘law.
“Coming nearer home, we do not entertain any doubt that our Professors of Family Law are conversant with the traditional definition of adultery as the physical infidelity of a spouse. But then as Professor Karen Peterson has, insightfully, shown in the illuminating article, “Infidelity Reaches Beyond Having Sex,” new forms of social media and virtual communication are shaping the way relationships (including extra-marital physical and nonphysical relationships) are conducted.
“More communication takes place outside the confines of marriage, even if still within the home. His finding is that cybersex and virtual affairs on the Internet are popular areas of interest among professionals who study spousal infidelity.
“Against this background, therefore, the question may be asked: how many Family law teachers have given a thought to whether “virtual adultery” should constitute actionable conduct in divorce proceedings under the Matrimonial Causes Act? The expression “virtual adultery” has been defined as “non-physical behaviour that adopts one or more aspects of a romantic relation-ship and consequently creates disconnect in the marriage.
“Turning to the Criminal Justice system: under this integrative scholarship which this presentation canvasses, the students’ knowledge of criminal law would transcend the narrow confines of the Criminal Code and Penal Code. “In other words, it would no longer suffice to teach the elements of the offences of murder; manslaughter; rape etc under the domestic penal statutes.
Since Nigeria has ratified and would, hopefully, some day domesticate the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, ICC, our young Advocates would, if properly groomed now, be the future Prosecutors and Defence Lawyers for persons who would be charged with the offences defined in the Statute.
“Instructively, due to the complimentarity principle in the Rome Statute, the domestic courts have the primary responsibility of prosecuting offences under the Statute. It is only where the country is unwilling or unable to prosecute that prosecution at the ICC can commence through the trigger mechanism.
“In order to actualise this goal, we advise young Lawyers to embark on an integrated course on Criminal Law which, expectedly, would include a comparative study of the features and elements of the above offences with the features and characteristics of international crimes.
International crimes bear certain peculiar characteristics that distinguish them from ordinary municipal crimes. They are offences that violate the bristle bond of humanity; hence, an offender is seen as hostis humani generis, an enemy of mankind.
“As young advocates who would shape the future of legal practice in Nigeria, we implore you to note that the Evidence Act, 2011, did not take account of these, and other, developments that would enhance expeditious trials. Although, these developments have been codified in some jurisdictions, only time would tell whether they would be adopted as part of our adjectival law on digital evidence,” Justice Nweze said.