Save the Profession from Further Mess and Disrepute – Jibrin Okutepa, SAN

To alter an order of court and present it as genuine ,is a serious matter that goes to root of justice. The integrity of the legal profession in Nigeria today is at a low ebb, due to actions of bad eggs in the profession. We must not allow the profession to suffer total professional wreckage, before we think of salvaging it. The time to act, is now.

Save the Profession from Further Mess and Disrepute – Jibrin Okutepa, SAN

Learned Senior Advocate, Jibrin Okutepa, shares a news report of the shocking account of a Lawyer who engineered the alteration of the enrolled order of a Federal High Court in a matter which his chambers is handling, to include an order which the court did not grant. Mr Okutepa points out that the Lawyer has committed a criminal offence, and that in the best interest of our profession, his actions must not be swept under the carpet. The Senior Advocate is also calling on the Nigerian Bar Association to look into the matter, with a view to ensuring that the erring Lawyer appears before the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee for his actions which amount to infamous conduct.

The leadership of the legal profession, must do something to save the profession from the further mess and total disrepute the profession is currently being plunged into. That a Lawyer can go to the extent of altering orders of court to include reliefs not granted by the said court, is not only infamous conduct in the professional respect, but a criminal offence which no decent society should condone or tolerate.
Last Friday, social media was awash with the news that a Lawyer altered the orders of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

News Report of the Incident

The report by Santos Owootori Esq reads: “The Fundamental Human Right case filed against the Edo State Govt in respect of Covid-19 vaccination came up today, 17/9/2021, before the FHC, Port Harcourt. The Applicant, represented by Chief E.O Odey Esq, leading S.C Eziefule Esq, reported to court that the Edo State Govt has been disobeying the court’s order of injunction in the case. The Hon. Judge denied making any order of injunction, and then went through, reading aloud the court’s record, but could not find any such order. The Applicant’s counsel insisted he has an enrolled order of injunction, signed by the Judge. The court then asked the Registrar of court to read out in open court, all the enrolled orders of court in the court’s file. Finding no order of injunction, the Hon. Judge asked the lead counsel whether he was in court the day such alleged ExParte Order of Injunction was made, to which he replied that it was his Junior that came to court. The Judge then asked the Junior to address court about his source of the purported enrolled order. The Junior said he was the one who took the enrolled order given to him which did not contain an order of injunction back to the court Secretary, telling the Secretary that it was an omission; and got the Secretary to add the order of injunction. At that point, the Hon. Judge ordered both counsel into the dock and was about sending them to prison when Mr. Ken E Mozia, SAN, who was in court intervened to profusely apologise on behalf of the Lawyers, and pleaded passionately with the Judge to pardon the reprehensible conduct of the two Lawyers in the interest of cordial Bar/Bench traditional rapport. He was joined by Mr. Wole Iyamu, SAN and Chief Femi Falana, SAN to plead for mercy. Eventually, the Lawyers were pardoned by the Presiding Judge, Hon Justice A.T. Mohammed, and warned against such conduct. Today, being the last day of FHC Vacation Court sitting, the case was transferred back to the Benin Judicial Division of the FHC”.

Pleas for Mercy

At first, I thought it must be one of those Nigerian jokes or fake news. But, from available information and contact I made, it turned out to be a sad and very unfortunate reality. My distinguished colleagues who pleaded with his Lordship to temper justice with mercy have discharged professional duties and responsibility bestowed on them by hallowed traditions of the Bar or the hazardous professional traditions and responsibility bestowed on them as senior members of the profession.That is how it has been from considerable time immemorial.
But, beyond the pleas for his Lordship to temper justice with mercy and not to send the Lawyer to prison, we must not allow this unethical and criminal conduct to be swept under the carpet. Not too long ago, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad had cause to invite some Chief Judges over granting conflicting Ex-parte orders. The CJN did not stop there. NJC, under the watch of CJN, has empanelled Committees to investigate those judicial officers, with a view to hearing them, and if need be, visit appropriate sanctions on them. This, for me, is the way to go.

The Role of the Nigerian Bar Association

In the same vein, the leadership of the legal profession, and particularly, NBA, must not allow this incident to be swept under the carpet. NBA must empanel a Committee of its members to investigate the facts and circumstances that led the Lawyer to alter the orders of court, with a view to bringing the Lawyer before LPDC. The Executive arm of government, through the security agencies, must investigate the parties involved with a view to them having their day before the criminal court.

To alter an order of court and present it as genuine ,is a serious matter that goes to root of justice. The integrity of the legal profession in Nigeria today is at a low ebb, due to actions of bad eggs in the profession. We must not allow the profession to suffer total professional wreckage, before we think of salvaging it. The time to act, is now.

Jibrin Samuel Okutepa, SAN

 

Source- THIS DAY

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