The dedication of my lady, the Honourable Justice Cecilia Mojisola Olatoregun to the judicial system is evident in her elevation from the rank of Deputy Chief Registrar to Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court within a short period of 2 (two) years. Upon being appointed a judge of this Court, it is worthy of note that her Ladyship had rendered immeasurable services to the Nigerian judiciary over the years.
My lady’s elevation to the Federal High Court Bench in 2000, was a well-deserved one. Your Ladyship had scaled new heights in the judiciary due to your hard work and ability to uphold the tenets of justice, even right from when she started this journey as a Senior Magistrate II in Oyo State, up until this day where she retires as a Judge of the Federal High Court.
Your Ladyship had a strong reputation for respecting the time of the court and that of counsel. She constantly frowned at lawyers who came late to court or tried to delay the time of the Court through unscrupulous applications just to forestall proceedings of the day. She also deplored counsel that were not on top of their matters or who were not prepared for proceedings and scolded them severely Your Ladyship’s tenure was known for speedy dispensation of justice. At this point, I must commend your Ladyship for her immense contributions to the development of the judiciary through her strict adherence to the rule of law.
My Lady, I boldly say today, that the Lagos Branch of the NBA celebrates you today because of the sterling qualities you possess as an arbiter. Your Ladyship was very even-handed in her treatment of counsel. Her disposition was the same regardless of whether they were juniors or seniors, or whether they were from the public or private practice. In fact, some government lawyers, who often have the habit of being laid back and sometimes presumptuous, to the point of arrogance, behaved themselves in her court and left the arrogance of power at the door. Due to her very tough and disciplined disposition, no-one dared approach her privately in respect of matters pending before her.
May I use this opportunity to say, that the Bar is concerned about how certain Government lawyers appear to be accorded sometimes with preferential treatment in some Courts. A lawyer acting on behalf of Government is no more of a lawyer than other lawyers. Our clients must have confidence in the scale of justice being even and must not leave the Courtroom thinking otherwise, after all, justice must not only be done but seen to be done. A lawyer that intends to conduct his case in court should be in court early enough and take his seat before the Court seats and not to oppress other lawyers by seeking protection or favour from the Court, to order other lawyers or senior lawyers, at that to get up for them, in order to conduct their cases.
The Lagos NBA has received reports of this, happening in some Courts. We have also received reports of some instances where some courts have been unduly deferential in their treatment of prosecutors for no reason other than that they are prosecutors. The bedrock of the rule of law is that the public must have confidence in the judicial system. Such deferential treatment simply undermines such confidence. The Lagos NBA, therefore, implores the judiciary not to deviate from the good example set by Justice Olatoregun in this regard. The Bar feels strongly about these issues, as our profession is one built on discipline and tradition.
Your Ladyship was not only a Judge of the Federal High Court but also doubled as an Admin Judge of the Lagos Judicial Division, sequel to her appointment in 2016. She supervised over 11 (eleven) other Judges in the Lagos Judicial Division (the biggest division of Federal High Court) and assigned over 11,000 cases to herself and other judges. Despite the demanding nature of her office as the Admin Judge, Your Ladyship still delivered landmark rulings and judgements which earned her letters of commendation from the monitoring committee on the performance of judicial officers of superior courts of records.
Your Ladyship had always extended her goodwill to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Lagos Branch, via her unflinching support for the Annual Law Week Event of the Branch. It is with great joy in my heart that I, on behalf of the NBA Lagos branch, congratulates your Ladyship on her stellar performance and legacies left behind for other judicial officers to emulate.
It is my desire that the good works began by your Ladyship will outlive her and to this end, the NBA Lagos Branch pledges to continue to partner with the judiciary towards efficient administration of justice. I also want to implore all of us present here to always give our best to whatever office we find ourselves because our acts will always justify the end.
Finally, I felicitate with your Ladyshipon the achievements so far and pray for God to guide your steps as you enter into a new phase of life. May God bless your ladyship.
Yemi Akangbe, NBA Lagos Branch Chairman