“Let Us Stop This Impunity”, By Johnson O. Esezoobo Esq
Johnson O. Esezoobo Esq
“Good morning…. I hope you are fine. My junior lawyer told me that you said you *collect N3000.00 to release a judgment and that you would not release the judgment in the…case to her unless she paid you N3000.00. So, she gave you the money before you released the judgment to her.
In other words, you exerted N3000.00 from her. This is totally unacceptable to me. I suppose I am old enough to counsel you and guide you in the way you deal with members of the public in your office. I can give tips, and I do give tips to Registrars of the Court. It becomes a bribe when you exert it from anybody. Thus, to exert any sum from us because as you put it, That is the practice in the Lagos judiciary is totally unacceptable to me. I have therefore, instructed my junior to meet you today and collect the money back from you. I hope you will cooperate with her and refund the money when she meets you. Note that if you fail to give her back the money, I will make a formal complaint to the CJ by Monday and thereafter report the matter to Police for appropriate action.”
Dear colleagues, last week Wednesday, a colleague called me up to say he filed a case at the High Court of Lagos State and for months it had not been assigned. And in following up, he was told by the registrar to bring N8000.00, to get the file assigned. Next day, Thursday, it got to my turn; copy of a judgment delivered by the Judge on the 12th of June 2022, which ordinarily should be given to us within 7 days, and was repeatedly said not to be ready because My Lord has not signed, was finally ready…and I sent my junior to go and pick it. My junior was to call later to say the registrar said she would pay and I said Yes, you will pay… and she said No, not that…., And the registrar took the phone and said But Mr. Esezoobo, you know that that is the practice in the Lagos judiciary… and she returned the phone. My junior was to return to say the registrar collected N3000.00 from her whereupon I sent the above message. And the registrar refunded the money by Monday. I am sharing this experience because ours is a noble profession where discipline should be the watch word. It begins from our chambers.
One of the things I teach every junior that has passed through me is to deal honestly and with dignity. As lawyers, we must earn respect not from the best of suits we wear or car we ride or the title we bear but from the character we court for ourselves.
The level of impunity that registrars and other support staff of Courts in Nigeria generally, and Lagos State in particular, have brought to bear is a function of the permissive attitude of the Judges; the buck at the table of the head, the CJ or the like.
This permissive attitude has not allowed the good and disciplined ones to be known. I have dealt, and still dealing with several Registrars of Court in Lagos State; highly disciplined and respectful, so much that one voluntarily give them tips, and they tell you, Thank you sir. These ones are easily identified with the Judges they serve under.
In the case at hand, it cost me more to recover the N3000.00, because my junior had to go to Lagos on Friday, when the registrar said she should come back on Monday. But the satisfaction is that we got the refund.
The sacrifice we need to enforce discipline, and check impunity or abuse of office is less than the pains we suffer by conforming to a corrupt as the Registrar wanted me to do when she said Mr. Esezoobo, you know that that is the practice in the Lagos judiciary. If that is the practice, we must stop it rather than conform to it.
Barrister Johnson Odion Esezoobo, Could Be Reached Via -:+234 803 320 0595