'Restrict Yourself To Areas Of Specialisation'
Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola has charged law officers in the country to restrict themselves to their areas of specialization while accepting briefs from clients in order to minimize delays in discharging cases at the courts.
He spoke at the one-day Law Conference held at the City Hall in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, with the theme, Delay in Justice Administration-Beyond the Rules and the Law, organised by the Lagos State Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
The governor frowned at the avoidable delays in justice administration as this could portend denial of justice, saying one of the major reasons why there were delays in court processes in the nation's courts was the issue of non-trial lawyers accepting cases and going to court to handle such cases, adding that the result of such situations was unnecessary adjournments.
He compared the situation with what obtains in other professions, arguing that just as in the medical profession where a practitioner who is not a surgeon cannot go into the theatre, a non-trial lawyer would only be a nuisance in a trial court as he would be lost before a trial judge.
“How many of us really are trial lawyers and how many of us admit that they are not trial lawyers and still go to court? Because it is not every medical practitioner that is a surgeon, so some of those clear distinctions must be made,” he said, charging the conference to “at least ventilate if not resolve the issue.”
Noting that the argument that solicitors should be separated from barristers was an on-going discourse, Fashola declared: “But these are some of the hard pills we may have to swallow,” adding that the distinction has been made a long time ago in the judicial system of the United Kingdom.
He maintained that a trial lawyer who came to court knew the environment, what the rules were and how the system operated, adding that just as a non-surgeon would be fumbling around in the theatre until the patient dies, a non-trial lawyer would continue to fumble and delay justice.
“And that is a serious undertaking that we are dealing with human lives, peoples' fortunes and we could do with some real professionalism in the country so that you don't have practitioners in the courts who are fishing for an answer,” he said.
Citing some of the actions of non-trial lawyers that caused delay in court, Fashola said, “they will deny every plea you claim; they will deny even the name of the plaintiff. What happens is that the plaintiff will now be first put on trial to prove that he is who he is and all these take time. It is only when the issues are in control of professionals that you could have a real trial. It is the lack of experience because they don't know what to do; it is not their area of specialization.”
Fashola also advised lawyers to debunk the concept that they must win every case they handle in court, pointing out that a lawyer should restrict himself to getting justice for his client according to the rule of law, adding that if lawyers understood this and put it into practice, it would narrow down the issues in court.