Monday, May 23, 2011
HISTORY MAKERS: TIGER BAR MEETS WITH LAGOS MAGISTRATES
History was made on November 15 2010 in the Lagos State Judiciary by a small group of legal practitioners numbering just sixteen who held a meeting for just a little over one hour. The venue of the epochal event was humble: the chambers of a magistrate at the Yaba Magistrate Court Sabo and there was no fuss or fanfare to announce or celebrate the great occasion. The sixteen legal practitioners belong to two different groups in the legal profession. The first five to wit: Mrs.
C.T Adesola Ikpatt, Mr. K.O Ogundare, Mr. S.K Matepo, Mrs. M.B Folami and Mr. A.A Adesanya are members of the lower bench and are the Chairman, General Secretary, Treasurer, Public Relations Officer and Assistant General Secretary of the Lagos State Branch of the Magistrates’ Association of Nigeria, respectively. The second group is from the famous Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, popularly known as the ‘Tiger’ Bar. They are Adebamigbe Omole – Chairman, Yinka Farounbi – 1st Vice Chairman, Adesina Ogunlana – General Secretary, Segun Fatoki – Assistant General Secretary, Lateef Abdulsalam – Welfare Secretary, Carolyn Ibeh – Treasurer, Dave Ajetomobi – immediate past Chairman, Dare Akande – immediate past 1st Vice-Chairman, Isa M. Buhari – immediate past General Secretary, Ademola Adewale, Alternate Chairman, Professional Ethics and Judiciary Monitoring Committee of the NBA Ikeja branch.
The unprecedented meeting of the lower bench and the bar was an initiative of the Adebamigbe Omole administration of the Tiger Bar, as part of a programme to ensure a more productive and friendlier relationship between the Bar and the Bench in Lagos State. The initiative however became a reality due to the cooperation of the leadership of the Magistrate Association of Nigeria Lagos State Branch (MANLS) which did not hesitate to welcome the formal request of the NBA Ikeja leadership to have a meeting with the leadership of MANLS.
Mr. Adebamigbe Omole the leader of the Ikeja Bar in his speech praised the leadership of MANLS for acceding to the request of the Bar to meet with her. Chairman Omole went on to raise issues of lateness to work, absenteeism and lack of industry on the part of some Lagos State magistrates. He also raised concern about the dressing of certain magistrates who dress casually or inappropriately to court. The chairman said the Bar would appreciate it, if Magistrates could take a second look at the way they grant or deny bail to accused persons to avoid unnecessary detention of accused persons. Another important issue raised by Mr. Omole was the instance of court room corruption, even extortion involving the registrars of the court, in the performance of their duties. After Mr. Omole’s speech, three other members of the delegation, Dave Ajetomobi, Adesina Ogunlana and Ademola Adewale Esq. lent their voices in support of the observations and comments of their chairman.
In reaction to the comments of the chairman of the Ikeja Bar and his other colleagues, Mrs. C.T Adesola Ikpatt, said that both the bar and bench are necessary partners, who cannot function separately and as such must work together. She thanked the Ikeja Bar for the initiative to have the meeting. The leader of the Magistrates Association also observed that magistrates were working in an environment or system which lacked sincerity and did not, oft times, reward industry. This was the reason why, according to the Chief Magistrate, some magistrates found it difficult to give their best to their work or excel therein. Mrs. Adesola Ikpatt in illustrating her point referred to the existence of “piece-typists” in the judiciary who are not the staff of the judiciary but more or less, self employed free lancers who are not even given necessary materials to work with and as such devise ways and means of carrying out their duties. She wondered why such a corps of workers, who still use ancient typewriters, should be existing in the judiciary. She also referred to the existence of “super court registrars” who regularly misconduct themselves and yet do not get punished, even if reported to the authorities. Some of these “super registrars” are so powerful that, they even threaten magistrates with transfer! The MANLS boss also noted that the registrars and other support staff of the magistrates do get away with their deeds because lawyers who are aware of their misdeeds, rather than report them to the presiding magistrates, compromise their integrity and collaborate with the corrupt staff. She explained that the job of many magistrates in the grant and approval of bail is made more difficult by the antics of “Resident Lawyers” who work hand in hand-in-glove with “Professional Sureties.” According to Mrs. Adesola Ikpatt and Mrs. M.B Folami, many of the so called resident lawyers often conduct themselves shamefully including fighting physically in open court.
They asked the Ikeja Bar to think of what could be done to reduce the menace of “Resident Lawyers” in the magistrate courts. Mrs. Adesola Ikpatt further stated that under her watch, the MANLS will not be indifferent to genuine cases of corrupt magistrates and that her association always told her members to be polite to legal practitioners and shun late coming to work.
At the end of the meeting, both parties (MANLS and Ikeja Bar) agreed that there was need for more of such interactions between them.