Saraki And Forum Shopping, Judicial Abuse Process By Utum Eteng
The desperation by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki to free himself from the tight grip of the law using different courts and legal tactics on the same facts, brings to the fore mischief and also the understanding of the law by his handlers. Saraki’s constitutional right to seek redress is not without exceptions or limitations. The exceptions include the right not to use the same set of facts under any guise to seek redress in more than one court, as he is doing now. This, in law is an abuse of the use of judicial process. Saraki’s headache in this multiple actions is how to stop his trial before the CCT, Abuja. His approach portends serious danger to the Rule of Law and to the jurisprudence of established legal norms with acceptable procedures outlined on how to invoke the jurisdiction of any courts of records. It is trite law that judgment in any given case is not given to favour a party who unreasonably lined up the highest number of senior lawyers or who instead of two witnesses calls forty. Saraki has the right, if he can afford to procure the professional services of as many senior lawyers as his deep pocket guarantees him. But his deep pocket cannot give him the locus to move from court to court on the same facts.
However, Saraki should be reminded that, the nature of the relief, the quality and character of evidence brought before the court, would determine the judgment he gets. Judges give judgment base on the evidence before them to support the reliefs prayed for. Suffice it to let Saraki, as the president of the highest law making body in Nigeria know that it is not by ones power position or choice that jurisdiction in a case is conferred in a court, but by statute and the reliefs making up the cause of action. Jurisdiction is the vire or the blood which justice flows in the veins of the law, and the lack of it in a case renders an action nugatory.
Thus, the recent ruling on Friday November 6, 2015 by a Federal High Court in Lagos presided over by Hon Justice Ibrahim Buba, wherein he dismissed Saraki’s application under the cover of the enforcement of his fundamental human rights is a classic example of a case on forum shopping and also one of abuse of the use of judicial process. Before now, it is on record that Saraki had used a different set of lawyers in Abuja before another Federal High Court to want to stop his arraignment at the CCT, but was refused. His appeal to the Court of Appeal Abuja was dismissed and has now lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court with a motion for a stay of execution of the judgment of the Court of Appeal Abuja. What would be the effect should the stay be granted, howbeit interim or if the real appeal succeeds? The effect would be to stop his trial before the CCT. What again would be the effect if the Lagos Federal High Court granted his application before it; still it would be to stop Saraki’s trial before the CCT. Alternatively put, why would Saraki and his handlers resort to this style of forum shopping when they know that the facts in the Lagos application are not proximate to his arraignment in Abuja in terms of venue? Saraki may change lawyers to pave way for the Lagos application, but like the Bible said, a leopard remains one because of its spots, which it cannot change.
Hon Justice Buba in dismissing the Lagos application made no mistake when he stated inter alia that “it is clear that the charge against the applicant is before the CCT sitting in Abuja” that “if there is no evidence that the infringement or likely infringement cut across more than one state, then the court will not have the vire or jurisdiction to entertain same”.
What has continued to bother the mind is, why would Saraki manifest such desperation again, this time to bring about judicial disorder and possible conflict of judgments in the different courts he has approach? Is it just to free himself from actions or omissions he freely took or omitted to take? It is on record that Saraki on his own accord, freely told Nigerians how in his desperation to be the Senate President arrived the senate premises several hours before the official sitting time, even when his colleagues in the APC were holding a party meeting at the International Conference Centre Abuja. If Saraki has become the Senate President and he is not getting the happiness, rest or peace of mind, he should be bold enough to hold himself responsible for it. In law, everyman bears the consequences of his actions/inactions. Saraki should by now accept that the jurisdiction exercised by the CCT to try him is conferred to it by the constitution which no court would upon a wave of the hand stop without causing disorder in the system. His multiple actions in courts using the same facts to gain the same effect do not speak well of him. His tackless open romance and preference for the PDP at the detriment of his majority ruling party also do not present him as one to be relied upon or trusted. If like he argued before Justice Buba of the Lagos court that “the Respondents were humiliating and prosecuting him on trumped up charges with the intention of securing his removal, impeachment and or resignation from office as Senate President”, then Saraki should count himself lucky that he knew in advance the cause of his travails and should have taken proper and honest steps to free himself, to have rest. He should be wise enough to avoid like a plague those things that could cause him pains in the heart ad restlessness. After all arising from his desperation, the National body of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is set to probe the alleged circumstances of the workout of the about 26 lawyers who represented him at the CCT when the tribunal refused to grant his application to suspend his trial. If to be at peace is indeed what Saraki desires, he should as a politician sincerely make peace with the platform upon which he came to the senate.
If a plot to subvert a sitting government is treasonable felony, and mutiny in the armed forces is a serious crime attracting dead sentence, what then is the punishment for a politician who disobeys the serious decisions of his party to stabilize its government? Saraki as an experienced politician should know the answer.
A man in search of peace using the courts must also be ready to do peace outside the court. Saraki has every opportunity to free himself now before it’s late. What is happening to him now is like the court scenario in a murder trial, where an accused person on trial takes part in the jokes, smiles and laughters in court until judgment of “to die by hanging” is pronounced on him and he ceases to notice the jokes and smiles on the faces of his lawyers and he is taken away to a waiting Black Maria.
CHIEF (BARR) UTUM ETENG
SENIOR LEGAL PRACTITIONER
HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST AND