Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has decried the prevalence of needless adjournments, long judgements and conflicting judgements in the courts, saying none of these is good for the judiciary.
He asked the judiciary to learn from how the courts in the United States speedily handled all the post-election matters brought before them by the then President, Donald Trump, and his supporters.
Falana spoke recently at the 17th Chief Gani Fawehinmi annual lecture, with the theme, ‘The constitutional history of Nigeria’s dysfunction: Any pathway to indivisibility and common progress?’ organised by the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch, to celebrate the life and times of Fawehinmi, who died on September 5, 2009.
At the event which was attended by Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State and the immediate past President-General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, Falana said lawyers and judges have roles to play in saving Nigeria’s democracy.
Falana said, “To lawyers and judges, we owe it a duty to save democracy in our country. We must avoid contradictory and conflicting judgements. Let me leave you with what has just happened in America. In one month and two weeks, Trump and his people filed 62 election petitions and all of them were dismissed. No adjournment. None.
“If you read the judgement, they were one or two paragraphs. But if you read our landmark judgements, (you see)many pages of dubious judgements. Therefore, let us learn from what happened in the US. A pre-election matter must be a pre-election matter. It cannot be a post-election matter.
“If somebody went to the university or didn’t go there, why do you need to adjourn that till after the election? You can summon the registrar of the institution right there and then and end the matter there. I’m therefore advising us as lawyers and judges, let us all stand up and live like Gani.”
He also charged magistrates to follow the rules, saying, “These days, when you go to a magistrate’s court and you ask for bail, they would ask you to put it in writing. That is not our law.”
In a veiled reference to the division in the country at the moment, especially along ethnic and religion lines, Falana said, “Nwodo became the President of the University of Ibadan Students Union in a keenly contested election years ago. But today, I doubt if that feat can be repeated in any part of Nigeria.”
He also called on youths to be active in deciding who becomes their leader, adding that the #EndSARS protest in 2020 rekindled the confidence of many people in Nigeria. “This year, we have to mobilise Nigerians to register for elections. The young people, I can assure you, would determine the fate of Nigeria in 2023,” he added.