By: Hameed Ajibola Jimoh, Esq.
I have observed (to the best of my knowledge) that none of the various Rules of various courts in Nigeria provides for the modes of addressing judges of the courts, hence, this paper as my personal opinion to the effect and or submission respectfully, that the Rules of court is best to provide for modes of addressing judges of court, hence, this topic.
It is no news to Law School candidates undergoing their law training in the various law schools across Nigeria especially in the ‘Law and Practice’ course that Judges of Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, are addressed as ‘Justices’ as well as ‘Your Lordships’ or ‘My Lords’, when sitting as a panel of justices. While the High Courts are addressed as ‘My Lord’, or ‘Your Lordship’ even though all the judges (including those of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal) can be addressed as ‘Honourable Justice’.
Also, Magistrates courts’ Judges are addressed as ‘Your Worship’ but not ‘My Worship’. Also, Area Courts’ Judges of the Northern States and Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, are addressed as ‘Your Honour’ but not ‘My Honour’. The above modes of addressing courts are found in law books only as transplanted from the English countries that Nigeria emulates. However, it is my humble submission that it would have been most appropriate for our courts to provide modes of addressing the judges of the courts in their respective Rules of court. This inadequacy must have been responsible for the errors some lawyers make in addressing the presiding judge or justices of the courts and the court so mistakenly addressed would feel contemptuous and or embarrassed to have been for instance, downgraded from being a High Court Judge to a Magistrate Court and be addressed as ‘Your Worship’ or the Justices of the Court of Appeal and or the Supreme Court to be addressed as ‘Your Honour’ or ‘Your Worship’ (though, respectfully, a Magistrate might feel promoted higher than deserving where addressed as ‘Your Lordship’ and so would not bother correcting the person or lawyer or court’s staff so addressing the court in that manner (from what I have observed. And some persons including lawyers and court’s staff/officials address an Area Court Judge as ‘Your Worship’ rather than ‘Your Honour’)! It is my humble recommendation that when Rules of court provide for the modes of addressing the court, this would save all the above ugly incidents and similar ones. For instance, to the best of my knowledge, none of the High Court of FCT-Abuja, (Civil Procedure) Rules 2018 or the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019 or the District Courts Rules, FCT-Abuja, 2021, or the Court of Appeal Rules, 2021, provides for modes of addressing the court or the presiding officer (s) of the respective court.
Finally, therefore, I humbly recommend that the appropriate authority consider this my recommendation for a greater development in our respective court’s and legal systems.