Nigerian Judiciary: Court of Judgment, Not Justice By ‘Rinsola Abiola
I first met Barrister Isma’il Ahmed last year; we had struck a virtual friendship via twitter as we had many similar interests, basically with respect to politics and the various foundations in which he was involved.
About the same time, I became involved with the Nigerian Youths United Action Coalition, coordinating the South-West as we tried to bring our vision of a National Conference (without the ‘Sovereign’) to fruition, so I invited Barrister Ahmed to join us and he willingly came on board.
His dedication, knack for being astonishingly straight-forward and his uncanny ability to see the potential challenges while everyone was being overly idealistic or optimistic earned him the position of the North-West coordinator. It was during this period that I learnt that beneath that calm, witty and exceptionally patriotic exterior was a man who had been denied of one of the most basic and FUNDAMENTAL rights of all – the right to Fair Hearing.
Barrister Ahmed had engaged his people in his native Nassarawa Federal Constituency of Kano state and informed them of his desire to represent them in the Federal House of Representatives, and had gone so far with this campaign that he was duly elected as a candidate on the platform of the CPC at 2011 elections. His name was forwarded to INEC by his party as required by law. His ambition was, however, not to be realized as one Nasiru Ahmed Ali, after losing out at the party primaries, decided to put a devious, evil plan into play. This Nasiru Ahmed Ali proceeded, on 16th February, 2011, to file a case against Barr. Ahmed at a State High Court in Kano – without his knowledge – and somehow managed to obtain a judgment nullifying Barr. Ahmed’s candidacy within only SIX days, and marched with this to INEC to have himself declared as the CPC candidate for that constituency.
This singular act of chicanery and a glaring manifestation of the desperation that has marred politics and brought Nigeria to her knees left many questions on the lips of many; how on earth could ANY judge for that matter give judgment in a case where the defendant was not given the constitutional right to – as the name implies – DEFEND himself? What precedence justified this gross injustice?
Being a learned fellow, Ahmed decided to be peaceful and to seek recourse in the court of law.
The elections came and went. Nasiru Ali became an ‘Honourable Legislator’ of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
At the Appeal Court, Barr. Ahmed shockingly lost the case. When asked if he tried to make sure the case goes his way, he replied: ‘I would rather lose right than win wrong’. Still, with unflinching patriotism and trust in the Rule of Law and impartiality of the apex court, he proceeded to table his case in the hallowed chambers of the Supreme Court – the last recourse for every law-abiding citizen. Alas! The hope placed in them was also dashed!
When the Supreme Court Justices filed into the court chambers on the morning of Friday the 12th of July, 2013 to deliver a verdict on the case, everyone in the court expected the judgment to be clear, fair and most importantly just; but what transpired was bizarre to say the least, and this is why I came to this conclusion;
Barr. Ahmed filed an appeal against the shocking court of Appeal judgment to the Supreme Court, where all principles of natural justice and constitutional provision of fair hearing were practically murdered. The Court, however, held that this callous disregard for natural justice and constitutional provisions does not matter.
In a judgment that left many lawyers in the court aghast, the Court upheld the unjust ruling and went on to justify this by claiming that Barrister Ahmed did not ‘prove’ that he was not served, even though he had deposed to an affidavit to that effect!
Why am I bothering you with this? Of what importance is this story to you? Because injustice to one person is injustice to every person, especially if that injustice has paved way for huge potential abuse of the rights of an individual to be heard in a matter. The right to be heard and to defend yourself in any matter is a cardinal rule even in the animal kingdom. This ruling implies that ANYONE can sue you without your knowledge, get a judgment within a few days and proceed to enforce it….and the court will not provide you succor. Someone could walk into a court of law and file a suit against you, claiming that you’re a fraud or that you infringed upon his right in some way, and you could be ordered to pay damages or even go to prison (this verdict would surely be enforced), all without your knowledge and without you being given the opportunity to defend yourself.
Now, ponder upon this and think about just where this country is headed, think about the basic rights that you should have and be able to exercise as a free citizen, and then consider the fact that the courts meant to uphold and protect these rights would willingly take them from you.
This is what the Courts have said, and this is why I am worried.
Ours is a country where 16 votes are recognized over 19 votes, where a winner is declared for youth council elections that did not hold, where 5 members suspend 27 in order to impeach a Governor. This is a country where the Supreme Court openly states that the superiority of a lawyer’s argument is of no effect as long as Judges’ discretion is concerned.
If this does not make you worried, then frankly I wonder what will.
As lawyers would say, I rest my case.
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
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