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"Headmaster Justice” At The Supreme Court: Disentangling the Nigerian Legal System from the Web of OKAFOR vs NWEKE 2007 10 NWLR (PART 1043) 521

It is necessary to begin this case review with a definition or explanation of what I have termed “Headmaster Justice”. It stands for the attempt of the courts to instill responsibility and accountability in the practice of law particularly in the way court processes are signed for the purpose of dispute resolution through litigation. Where a court process is signed by a legal practitioner who omits to type the name by which he has been registered to practice under that signature but instead substitutes for it the name of the law firm in which he practises, that process will be adjudged incompetent and void. The court will strike out the suit if the process concerned is an originating process, notwithstanding that the case has been decided on the merits in favour of the party that the erring legal practitioner represents. The said action may be struck out on appeal (even at the Supreme Court) despite success at the trial court and at the Court of Appeal by the party that the legal practitioner represents.

The disciplinary process in the Nigerian legal system as it touches and concerns the legal practitioner has always been independent of the system of adjudication itself. It is of course true that sometimes the error of the lawyer results in the failure of his client’s case. In that instance, the client loses because the error whether substantive or procedural affects the case on the merits, that is to say in the process of determination. The case does not fail as the result of the need to make the counsel handling it accountable and responsible.

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