Bringing Sanity Into The Judiciary: An Unending Rhetoric By Abdullahi Baba Abdul
In a nation where things continue to get worse yet its citizenry refused to act can be calamitous. The media in recent times are aback with the statement of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Sani Malami (SAN) on corrupt judges; some applauded his courage for saying the fact and the truth, while others in their own wisdom saw it as a ploy to arm-twist the third arm of government; the judiciary.
Over the years, Nigerians have waited endlessly to see any culprit to that effect despite the overwhelming evidence that some judges are not only indolent, but are unarguably enmeshed in corrupt practices. As a litigant who has transverse the three levels of the Nigeria higher courts, one can unequivocally say that the postures and the administration of justice at the Supreme Court is far from being the highest court of the land while the National Judicial Council the supposed highest decision making body on issues that borders on administration of justice in Nigeria is also far from what it is meant to be; with due respect. While the Executive and the Legislative arms of government have never been spared from public criticism and bashing, the Judiciary seems to be immune and have enjoined relatively less criticism from the populace; this is for one simple reason; the lawyers and judges will call for evidence to prove one’s allegations and in the absence of proofs, the rest can be imagined. But in a nation wanting to move on, people must make sacrifices and be ready to confront the prize of such sacrifices; it is on this premise that this piece resonates.
Coming back to the allegation of ineptitude and corruption from the highest institutions, I find these words fitted to the two scenarios coming forth. On the 28th February, 2011, I approached the Federal High Court Abuja (FHC/ABJ/273/2011) for the determination of the rightful Candidate of the Congress for Progressives Change Kogi/Lokoja Federal constituency having recourse to a section of the Party’s constitution. The matter was transferred to the Lokoja division (FHC/LKJ/CS/15/2011, the court being compromised made frivolous adjournments despite that the matter came by way of originating summons and a pre-election matter; even when I petitioned the National Judicial Council on this, the best I saw was a query letter to the presiding judge without any reply up till this moment; even when I wrote back to the NJC for a feedback, I was told to wait until my matter is determined at the supreme court.
First, in a very civilized world, when a judge is petitioned on a matter before him which he has not heard or make pronouncement, the best thing to do is to hands off from the matter, but because there was an ulterior motive orchestrated by the Judge and heavily supported by a higher body, the judge went ahead, hear the matter and made very brilliant submission that unfortunately didn’t fit into the matter before him; What a big shame! As if that was not enough, the Court of Appeal Abuja took up the case CA/84/2012 without the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents who were Defendants at the Federal High Court and made its pronouncement based of the 4th Respondent evidence as against the judgment of the Federal High Court whose ratio of its decision hinges on the 1st Respondent evidence. The worst of it all was at the Supreme Court where one think is supreme but isn’t.
The court in the first place abandoned the matter for reasons best known to them and when the matter would be heard, an impostor came from the blues claiming to be representing the 1st and 2nd Respondent, filed in a preliminary objection out of time, and of course because it was a planned soft landing to shy away from an undisputable facts and argument, the Supreme Court would rather struck out the matter (than taking the matter on its merit) for want of the leave of court to appeal contingent to the constitutional provision of Nigeria (Sec 233) and being a concurrent findings of the trial and lower court. To my amazement, I have heaps of letters to then Chief Justices Alooma Mukthar and Mahmud Muhammed on very simple questions without any response till date; that by virtue of the same constitution (section 234) were the panel (five) properly constituted to adjudicate on the same matter that they have so done by applying or interpreting sec 233? And that how can a matter that was judged based on the evidence of a 1st defendant be concurrent findings to the evidence of a 4th Respondent given that their evidences and argument are far apart? A perusal of the court document speaks volume to the issue at stake (SC/311/2012).
For any discerning mind, the Supreme Court is at its lowest ebb, few weeks ago, the Chief Justices of Nigeria was lamenting on conflicting court judgments from the court of appeal and I wonder if the records so far at the Supreme Court are any much better; one does not need to be a lawyer or work so hard in the library to remember very contradicting judgment all emanating from the same division, in some cases from the same person who gave a lead judgment or “I agree with my lordship” member of a panel. I didn’t have to crosscheck to say that, the same Supreme Court who in its wisdom struck out my matter for being concurrent findings of the lower and trial court upheld the appeal of Wilson Wike. I didn’t need to reflect on the Judgment of Lado vs. CPC where the court declined jurisdiction to sit on a matter that borders on the conflict between the state party executives and national but just few days ago went into the issue of Anambra matter where two list from two factions of the PDP executive as in contention; one does not need to recount the issue of Lady Okadigbo and others where the court went ahead to declare her the rightful winner of the Anambra senatorial seat; the list are endless.
To further illustrate the ineptitude of the Supreme Court, when the present Chief Justice of Nigeria assumed office, a list of political cases were compiled with a resolve to giving them a speedy trial, no sooner that some individuals began to frustrate this bold decision to the extent that my application SC/311/2012 for the leave of court/extension of time was hidden and never enlisted on the political case as directed by the CJN; I had to personally accost the head of litigation and personally followed up to have my application restored on the record. The situation is rather too messy for a vivid account of what it looks like on the pages of the newspaper. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the manner in which a high level conspiracy was orchestrated to make my pending application seeking for the restore of my matter (SC/311/2012) appear in the court record to have been abandoned by me. My application was enlisted without any information passed across to me whether through phone, my counsel or postage and the court went ahead to call up the matter as the first on the list; but to the disappointment of the panel, I was at the forefront when my matter was called upon and I made my submission before the court to the delight of my conscience that any discerning mind in the court would agree with me that bringing sanity into the judiciary is an unending rhetoric if Nigerians remain aloof to the status quo. It is rather too unfortunate that, the same media outfit (newspaper) who had wildly published the stepping down of one of my counsel at the Lokoja division have kept mum to my various press releases and rejoinders to the instructions of their pay master since bringing the merit of the matter before the public domain will invariably make the sales of the judgment difficult.
It is sad that some of our incorruptible judges trapped in this conundrum are helpless as they are hoodwinked to subscribed to the “I agree syndrome” that has permeated into the fabric of our appellate courts which not the Judges themselves nor the executive and the legislatives can ignite the needed cleaning in the Judiciary but you and I.
Dr Abdullahi Baba Abdul was an appellant at the Supreme Court (SC/311/2012)
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