Adekunle Adegoke (SAN)
SAN Agitates for Reformation of Constitution, Electoral Act
A former Secretary of the North East Task Force of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Mr. Adekunle Adegoke (SAN) has called for reformations of the country’s Constitution, saying that the current constitution which harboured federal character and quota system, is obsolete and must be amended.
Adegoke (SAN) made this call in his appraisal of Nigeria democracy andjudiciary in the outgoing year, he also called for the reformation of the Electoral Act, notng that the current one is designed to favour the winners.
Adekoge, who was among 73 lawyers that were elevated to the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), made the recommendations, stated that the country’s democracy could not develop with the current electoral act.
On the Constitution, the Silk said: “I want the National Assembly to address is that of the federal character and quota system. These are things that we ought not to retain in the Constitution, The idea of the federal character, quota system and what have you can be traced back to the 60s when there are concerns that a particular section of the country is educationally disadvantaged.
“This policy confers some advantages on northerners and put other region at a disadvantage. Such a provision ought to be regarded as affirmative action to bridge the gap. It should not be a permanent thing that would continue forever.
“When you also look at the Electoral Act, there is need to make prove of electoral allegations simpler. The current electoral system is designed in favour of the winner. Nobody can file an electoral petition based on the present arrangement and succeed. That is why smart lawyers don’t represent petitioners anymore. they represent the respondent, who is the winner in the election because he has nothing to prove.
“Yes, there is timeline for the hearing of election petition but this is not enough. It’s a question of how far have we helped the victim of election fraud to prove his case”.
Adekoge (SAN) who is of opinion that 2020 is a challenging year in the history of Nigeria’s judiciary, especially, with the Covid-19 pandemic, said there is need to deploy more technology more than before to be able to face the challenge, as no one knows when the pandemic with leave.
He also called for proper funding of the judiciary, saying that for judiciary to be full independent under democratic dispensation. He said a situation where judiciary go with ‘cap in hand’, begging for funds from the executive arm of government, cannot guarantee independence of judiciary.
He also blamed lawyers with frivolous applications, which he said make it difficult for justice to be dispensed at appropriate time.
According to him: “fundamentally, I believe the judiciary should look into, particularly on the issue of equipment. Equipping the judiciary to be able to face the challenges, on this, I want to talk on COVID-19 and the challenges it posed to the judiciary. Nobody anticipated it and now it has become very apparent that we must be ready to deploy technology much more than before.
“The issue at point was whether it was even proper for a court to deliver judgement virtually unlike the physical approach that we are all used to. It came to a point that it was practically impossible for any court of the land to even sit and everything was suspended.
“There are infrastructure that must be provided which the government must be ready to deploy immediately. Tied to that is the need to assist the judiciary to achieve its independence. This independence requires that judiciary should not go cap in hand to the executive for funds. Judiciary can only be independent when it is not begging for survival from other arms of government.
“There are some areas where the judiciary has not fared better when it comes to dispensation of justice. You discover that it take so long for some cases to be decided. Those on the Bench and other stakeholders like lawyers and litigants could be responsible for this. Some judges are not regularly sitting as they should do. It is important that lawyers should help the judiciary. There are lawyers who deliberately waste the court’s time by filing frivolous applications.
On non compliance with the court orders by the executive arm of government, Adegoke, who is also a human rights activist, describing such practices as executive lawlessness and a bad precedent for the country’s development.
“It is simply executive lawlessness that has pervaded our system for so long. The Supreme Court had even in the past condemned such practices by the executive. Where court orders are not obeyed by an executive, such an executive is not setting good precedent for the nation’s progress, but tyranny and destruction of the system. If there’s a government that should not disobey court orders, it is supposed to be the current government led by Muhammadu Buhari.
“This is a president that had suffered a lot from judiciary in the process of determination of issues. At least, on about three or four occasions, he was in court to contest his losses at the presidential polls. He could see how long it took for those cases to be decided and how much he felt sad anytime he lost. To that extent, I expect that someone who has passed through such process would place much premium on respecting orders of court.
“The president ought to be the one that should champion the obedient of court orders. When court orders are obeyed by either the president or a governor, a good example is being set for the citizens. The citizens will behave the same way the executive behaves and that is why we have so many people around who believed they are more powerful than the court.
“The implication of all these actions is that the rule of law is being destroyed and replaced with the rule of man. The consequence of all these is chaos and anarchy”.