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Nigerian Judicial System – Separating The Wheat From The Chaff

Posted: Oct 4, 2016 at 6:52 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Sam Kargbo

Conflict is a part of the nature of humanity. It is, therefore, not surprising that every era of human development has witnessed the creation and operation of mechanisms for the resolution of conflicts. Whereas conflict may not by itself be good or bad, its management or mismanagement may make it positive or negative. Thus, to be effective, enduring and self-sustaining, the mechanism of conflict analysis, processing, management and resolution must be fair and just to the conflicting parties and the public. The nature of conflict also calls for the intervention of the third party with authority to pass binding judgment over the conflict and personify justice. For unconvincing reasons, the State or sovereign has always considered it necessary to retain judicial powers. But Jethro’s advice for Moses, his son-in-law, is quite instructive. In Exodus 18:18, he warned Moses, “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Thus, in Exodus 18:21-22, he counselled Moses to “select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, the fifties, and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter because they will share it with you.”

In consonance with the need to delegate powers to persons who will not pervert justice, who will not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the rich or powerful, but judge neighbours fairly, section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) vests the judicial powers of the Federation of Nigeria to the courts of the land.

Six days ago, on Thursday, September 29, 2016, the National Judicial Council (NJC), recommended the removal (from office) of the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya, Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike, and Justice Kabiru M. Auta of the High Court of Justice, Kano State.

While the NJC recommended the retirement of Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya and Justice I. A. Umezulike, it recommended Justice Kabiru M. Auta’s dismissal from service with immediate effect, and ordered him to be handed over to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 1, Kano, for prosecution. This, to my mind, should be worrisome in many respects. Ladan Tsamiya is a Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, a court that is second only to the Supreme Court in the hierarchy of the courts in the land. It is more than worrisome for such a person to be associated with the allegation of touting and trading in injustice to the point of his being recommended for early retirement. This should call the entire legal system to arms. Borrowing the words of Honourable Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem JCA, this should stir a volcanic reaction in the stomachs of members of not only the public and lawyers but judicial officers whose image is under trial.

With the case of a Presiding Justice of a Division of the Court of Appeal being fingered in perverting justice, everyone should be worried. The case of the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike, is no less terrifying. He is a Chief Judge and therefore sits atop the judiciary in Enugu State. If he lacks the discipline and comportment to dispense promptly impartial justice to litigants in that state, then the trickle-down effect can only be imagined. The NJC also recommended the prosecution of Justice Kabiru M. Auta of the High Court of Justice, Kano State. I will, therefore, stay my comments on him in the hope that he will not be found guilty of taking bribes. If he is however found guilty, I shudder to think what such a conviction will mean for the judiciary.

I have always maintained – and will keep maintaining – that the few bad eggs in the judiciary should not be allowed to spoil or destroy the large basket of good and hardworking men and women on the Bench. It is in that spirit that I urge the leadership of the Bar to complement the efforts of the NJC. As the Bible says, corruption in the judiciary is a conspiracy of audacious conspirators that include members of the Bar.  The cases treated by the NJC should give the lead to the involvement of members of the Bar. Bad eggs should be shown the way out of the noble Bar.