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Conflicting Court Judgements in Nigeria

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THE judiciary is a branch of government which administers justice according to law. The term is used to refer broadly to the courts, the judges, magistrates, adjudicators and other support personnel who run the system. The courts apply the law, settle disputes and punish law-breakers according to the law.
OUR judicial system is a key aspect of our democratic way of life. It upholds peace, order and good government. Citizens look to the judiciary to uphold their rights and governments look to the courts to interpret laws. The judiciary is expected to act without fear of powerful interests, and without favoring individual parties
BUT recent frivolous granting of rulings/judgments from courts across the country call for serious attention. We recall the recent political crisis in Edo state. While a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, barred Governor Godwin Obaseki, the Edo State Governor, from participating in the just concluded Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary election another court of coordinating jurisdiction in Edo state granted him waiver even when the earlier suite was still subsisting.
THE recent show of shame of the court is not new in our body politics. We recall a protracted intra-party feud in the Peoples’ Democratic Party that resulted in Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi leading rival factions. They, at different times, obtained conflicting judgements from Federal High Courts in Abuja and Port Harcourt respectively. Also, preparatory to the 2019 general election, there were two different court pronouncements on Zamafara state, one coming from a High Court in Zamafara while an Abuja High Court also issued a different order concerning INEC decision excluding All Progressive Congress (APC) from Zamfara State from the coming elections as a result of not conducting their primaries within the time lag.
CURIOUSLY, the court at the appellate level is even not insulated from this abuse of the court process. For example, In Amosun vs Daniel, the Appeal Court presided over by Justice M.L. Garuba held that one Tunde Yadeka was not an expert in the examination and analysis of election materials. However, the same Appeal Court in Aregbesola vs Oyinlola ruled that Tunde Yadeka was an expert. Curiously enough, Justice Garuba who read judgment on Amosun vs. Daniel; and Justice Adamu Jauro, who was a member of the panel, were also members of the panel on the Aregbesola vs Oyinlola. These two cases with similar facts but on which two different judgments were delivered were decided within a period of less than two months!
THESE rulings are making Nigerians, and Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, to be nervous. The body expressed concern over the conflicting judgments and consequential orders emanating from the Court of laws ahead of the forthcoming 2019 general polls. INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu pointed out that conflicting judgments usually put the commission in a difficult situation.
THE truth is that the Nigerian judiciary is a sad reflection of the dominant and common ethos of the larger society. The image of the ‘incorruptible judge’ which once held sway has vanished. Judges no longer abide by the disciplinary ethics of their profession. Some are seen hobnobbing with politicians and shady characters.
SOME highly placed lawyers of the status of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) have been reported to perfect ways of ‘settling’ judges. Payments are often in foreign currencies. This is rampant.
CONFLICTING judgments do not only confuse counsel and lead to uncertainty with regards to decision, it equally impacted negatively on the public perception of ability to guarantee unequivocal justice
REGRETTABLY, judges in Nigeria see themselves as a special breed of citizens who are above the law. This is also true of some senior lawyers, who handle these briefs that bring odium to the justice system. Ayo Salami, a former President of the Court of Appeal, once alleged that retired senior judges were deeply involved in “bribing or intimidating judges,” under the guise of legal consultancy. Nothing could be more despicable.
WE therefore call on all stakeholders in the judiciary to join the fight to cleanse the judiciary. The Executive branch, dominated by desperate politicians, should also lead by example by respecting the judiciary when court orders are given. They should stop offering mouth-watering bribes on election and other cases. The NJC should also play its role at ensuring that reported cases of corruption are promptly investigated and dealt with.
FRIVOLOUS petitioners should also be punished. Court procedures should be made more efficient. Duration of cases should be within reasonable time limits as specified by the law.
FINALLY, it is apposite to state that it is the judges themselves that can restore the honour of the judiciary through a conscientious pursuance of the ends of justice. The NJC has a crucial role to play.
WE have had enough of sound bites from the CJN and the Attorney General of the Federation on how to make the judiciary work again. Action is needed now to stop the bad eggs from the Bench and Bar from polluting justice; and thereby, restoring the integrity, dignity and respect of the legal system.

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