(Being the goodwill message delivered by Hon. Justice M.B. Dongbam-Mensem CFR, JP+, HON. President, Court of Appeal at the opening ceremony of the 63rd Annual General Conference of the NBA , held at MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja on August 27, 2023)
IT is with immense pleasure and gratitude to God Almighty that I extend a warm and heartfelt appreciation to the NBA President and team for asking me to be part of this noble ceremony I welcome each and everyone present for the grand occasion of the opening ceremony of the 63rd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
This annual event stands as a hallmark of unity, knowledge-sharing, and collective growth within the legal profession. As we convene in this prestigious gathering, we embrace not only the opportunity to expand our legal horizons but also to strengthen the bonds that tie us as legal professionals dedicated to upholding justice, fostering legal excellence, and advancing the rule of law. In this spirit of camaraderie and intellectual enrichment, let us embark on this journey of enlightenment and collaboration, ready to engage in meaningful discussions, gain new perspectives, and contribute to the evolution of the legal profession.
I am honoured to be invited to share with you my perception of some of the critical issues that profoundly impact the administration of justice in our dear nation.
First and foremost, let me emphasize that an independent and efficient judiciary is the cornerstone of any democratic society. Our Courts play a vital role in upholding the rule of law, ensuring fair trials and safeguarding the rights of all citizens.
However, we cannot ignore the challenges that beset our justice system, ranging from case backlog to inadequate funding and the paucity of infrastructure.
The backlog of cases in our Courts is a pressing concern that demands our immediate attention. Timely delivery of justice is essential not only for the litigants but also for the credibility of our legal system. To address this, we must explore innovative methods, including Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms, to expedite the resolution of cases.
In the Court of Appeal, we have an active ADR Centre in the Abuja Division with branches at the Lagos and Port Harcourt Divisions, respectively. Additionally, the use of technology can revolutionize case management and reduce delays.
Furthermore, the legal profession itself is not immune to challenges.
The need for continuous professional development cannot be overstated. Embracing lifelong learning and staying abreast of legal developments is essential for the effectiveness of legal practitioners. Equally important is the promotion of ethical conduct and professionalism within the legal community.
Regrettably, there have been instances where the professional conduct of some legal practitioners has fallen short of the ethical standards we uphold. Such delinquent activities, whether they involve unethical practices, frivolous litigation, or breach of client confidentiality, tarnish the reputation of our entire profession.
When you elect to join the legal profession you are bound by the rules and regulations of association You may not like some things but you are bound to respect what is on ground until you follow legal means to effect a change It is an act of professional delinquency to take to the public our internal differences.
In this regard, this year’s theme ‘Getting it Right’ is apt. It is our collective duty to address and condemn such behaviors portray us in bad light As guardians of justice, we have a solemn duty to maintain the highest standards of integrity, ensuring that the trust placed in us by our clients and the public remains unwavering.
Access to justice remains a fundamental principle that we must vigorously uphold. The justice system should be accessible to all, regardless of their economic or social status. Legal aid programs and pro bono activities play a crucial role in ensuring that justice is not a privilege but a right. Uphold the dignity of your client – you need not announce to the world that you are representing him pro bono – that is part of the nobility of the learned profession our journey towards a just society requires collective effort and commitment.
While we acknowledge the existing challenges, let us also recognize the immense potential for positive change. For the Court of Appeal I am steadfast in my dedication to addressing these issues head-on, in collaboration with all stakeholders. With shared determination, we can develop the administration of justice in Nigeria into a beacon of fairness, efficiency and equality.
I heartily congratulate the NBA President with his dedicated executive and legal practitioners for your sustained participation in the all you all NBA AGC, a platform where ideas flourish, collaboration is strengthened and the future of our profession is secured.
Thank you and God bless us all.