The President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), Honorable Justice Benedict Kanyip has proposed a bar-bench forum between the NICN and the Nigerian Bar Association Abuja Branch to ensure the standard of legal practice is maintained between the bar and the Bench.
Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip stated this when the Hauwa Shekarau led EXCO of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja Branch paid him a courtesy visit.
The Chairman of the Branch, Ms. Hauwa Shekarau when addressing the President of the NICN, thanked him for accommodating the EXCO despite the stringent need to keep to the safety guidelines during the covid-19 pandemic.
Ms. Shekarau also stated that as the newly elected Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja Branch, the branch is interested in working very closely with the judiciary. She added that the reality is that members of the bar and the bench are like Siamese twins and there is the need to understand each other in a way that is mutually benefiting for the good of the society, the rule of law and the democratic process in Nigeria. The branch is interested in having a robust engagement with the judiciary.
The Chairman further stated that in the past the Bar has always risen up ,to the occasion to speak up for the judiciary when something goes wrong publicly because by the nature of oath taken by judicial officers they mostly do not have the opportunity to speak back when there are attempts to attack the judiciary. In her words “the Bar spoke up for the Bench in a bid to promote and protect the rule of law but lately things have been done differently. That is why for us the EXCO of the Unity Bar, whose tenure will run from 2020 to 2022, we have made it our cardinal agenda that robust engagement with the Judiciary is very important. And for us, we will not allow ourselves to wash our dirty linens in public but the Bar and the Bench will discuss within themselves all issues affecting them.“
She added that it is only where there is a complete break down of discussions that the resort may be to seek for for judicial interpretation if need be and to be able to do that the symbiotic relationship between the two groups must be oiled constantly.
The Chairman also added that, the branch will ensure that the relationship with the judiciary is entrenched and made sustainable so that coming EXCOs will see the importance of having a robust relationship. As a follow up of that engagement, the branch offers itself for partnership in any activity that the NICN puts together.
Lastly, Ms. Shekarau informed the President of the Bar Centre project for the Abuja Branch of the NBA and she solicited the support of the NICN in the building project. She stated that the project is one that should have been taken seriously many years ago and vowed that under her watch the project is a very important agenda which she hopes will be completed. The Bar center will serve both the Bar and the Bench and the support of the NICN for the laudable project will be much appreciated.
In his reponse, the President of the NICN thanked the EXCO of the NBA Abuja Branch for the courtesy visit and stated that the NICN is glad that the branch is willing to partner with them.
Hon. Justice Kanyip also stated that the NICN intends to start a Bar-Bench Forum earlier in the year but for the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic. He added that the forum is important to rebuild the standard of legal practice in Nigeria which is currently falling apart. The forum will also help lawyers understand the role, jurisdiction and reform policies of the NICN.
The President, NICN further stated that the forum will provide an opportunity for the Bar to hear from the Bench and vice versa. There has already been an established relationship with the bar as the NICN and the Unity Bar part-took in a webinar on the recently issued practice directions of the NICN.
As for the support to the building of the NBA Abuja Branch Bar Center, Hon. Justice Kanyip said that when it becomes necessary within the limits of its powers the NICN will see how it can assist in the building project. He also urged the EXCO to impress on the members of the branch that standards are going down and it is not just the judicial standards but all facets of the Nigerian society. He wished the EXCO a successful tenure and hopes to enjoy a good relationship within the two years period and beyond.
In giving the vote of thanks, the secretary of the branch, Prince Adebiyi Adetosoye, on behalf of the EXCO thanked the President, NICN for the rare privilege and promised that the branch will go back to its drawing table and analyze all it has been doing wrongly as well as work closely with the Court to ensure that all the issues identified would be sorted out.