Senior Advocate of Nigeria and environmental law expert, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, says the lack of sympathy for, and understanding of nature of environmental matters by judicial officers hinders environmental justice in Nigeria.
Professor Fagbohun stated this while delivering a lecture, titled “Understanding Nigeria’s Judicial System”, at the 2nd edition of the C.O Anah, SAN Memorial Colloquium held on 27th October, 2022.
In his speech, the professor made sure to acknowledge the victims of the current floods plaguing most states in Nigeria. He further went on to detail the foundations of environmental law in Nigeria, the country’s poor environmental performance in 2022, and the role of the judiciary in bettering Nigeria’s environmental fortunes.
Speaking to both physical and virtual attendees at the event, Fagbohun reiterated on the importance of Judicial officers possessing knowledge and applying sympathy when adjudicating environmental issues.
The judicial system is using the same lens with which it views other cases to view and treat environmental cases, thus, the courts remain unsympathetic to public interest applications aimed at protecting the collective benefit of environmental suits.
On the importance of Judicial officers having knowledge of, and appreciating the tenets of environmental law, Fagbohun stated,
It is such a lack of sympathy on the part of judicial officers that has often been behind the inability to appreciate the interconnectedness of man and nature, and the importance of such central tenets of environmental law such as the precautionary principles, the prevention principle, the polluter pays principle, and the concept of sustainable development…
That lack of appreciation is also why the court will put its emphasis more on the procedural issues of standing, pre-action notice, and time limitation among others.
Professor Fagbohun also tasked judicial officers to take it a step farther from just attending workshops on environmental law, but urged them to also embrace a progressive mindset willing to strengthen rule of law and justice for the environment.
It is one thing for judicial officers to be exposed to capacity building workshops on environmental law; yet, it is another to embrace a mindset that moves from the largely procedural and current unhelpful orthodoxy approach to willingness to facilitate the development of environmental jurisprudence and strengthening the rule of law and justice for the environment.
Concluding his speech, the ex Lasu Vice-Chancellor implored the Judiciary not to let procedural technicalities discredit the law and encourage arbitrariness.
At the level of the judiciary, when infractions and violations are allowed to pass on grounds of procedural technicalities among others, it discredits the law and encourages arbitrariness.
Get the link to his full speech here.