27 March 2012

Nigeria: Judge, Lawyer Spar in Court

Lagos — There was a mild drama at the Lagos High Court yesterday when Justice Olubunmi Oyewole and a legal practitioner, Barr Modupe Alakija exchanged hot words over a pending case.

Trouble started when Alakija, who was appearing in the case for the first time accused the judge of having an interest in the case.

"After quoting several relevant authorities, including Supreme Court rulings to justify the fact that it is the duty of the court to serve parties in the case with notices of application, your lordship is still insisting that it is the duty of the counsel to do so. Your position so far has demonstrated to me that you have interest in this case," Alakija said.

That verbal attack was greeted with laughter from Justice Oyewole, who wasted no time in replying the lawyer.

"This is the first time you will be showing up since the case started. It is also the first time I am meeting you. But, I'm very disappointed with the way you have conducted yourself so far. You have no right whatsoever to point your finger at a judge. You said you have spent 41 years in the bar, but I'm sorry to say those years have been a waste," Justice Oyewole said.

But Barr. Alakija wouldn't take the statement lying low either as he replied Oyewole by saying, there is nothing wrong in pointing a finger at the judge. He argued that he as a counsel and as a Nigerian, has a right to register his disaffection if he observes that something is wrong.

"When the bench stinks, we should not shy away from saying it. The court should learn how to tie its rotten ends. To say that my 41 years in the bar has been a waste, I will not take that from you," he said.

At that point, Justice Oyewole threatened to remand Barr. Alakija if he uttered another word.

"Mr Alakija, I thought you will be civil enough in this case considering the presence of junior members of the Bar. But, I can assure you that if you utter another word, I will order that you should be remanded," Justice Oyewole said.

After a brief silence, Alakija rose up again and said, " My judge, I cannot shut up, neither can I be cowed or intimidated. For as long as my words are under the ambit of the law, I don't think you can stop me from talking."

Justice Oyewole refused to respond to the last statement, and went ahead to adjourn the case till May 21, 2012.

Many of the lawyers, who witnessed the scene were too shocked to comment when Daily Trust sought their views on the development.

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