By Abimbola Akindunbi & Kayode Olabanji
Going by the establishment of the courts, it is a place where people either high or low come to seek justice, hence the popular saying that, ‘Court, the last hope of the common man.’
But over the years, using Nigeria as a case study, it seems the notion is fading out, as many downtrodden have been denied their rights due to influence peddling over the court’s decision.
The Hope Classics spoke with some Nigerians on their views on whether the court can still be said to be the last hope of the common man.
Barr. Akin Ogunsakin, legal practitioner
It is the provision of our 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended sections 6(1) provides that the judicial power of the Federation shall be vested in the court. This power is derived from the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. Judiciary is an arm of government separate and distinct from the two other arms of Government.
The major role of the judiciary is adjudication for effective governance supposedly.
Courts should be seen as the final hope for the downtrodden.
But unfortunately, it is not so because of institutional problems. Courts are more often than not being used as a vendetta against the commoners. Government alike did not help matter. Some judgements given by Courts are being flouted by the agencies of government.
Also, the cost of maintaining an action in court is expensive for the common man to afford. Delay of trial in courts, of course, is a matter of concern to every common man who is a litigant in court.
Honestly speaking, common man must keep faith in our court system as court continues to strive for the betterment of the downtrodden.
Mr Aliyu Yunusa, legal practitioner
I have in plethora of time heard the expression “the judiciary is the last hope of the common man.”
It baffles me to always hear only the winner singing this judiciary song but the vanquished don’t sing such a song.
In many places where the executive and the legislative arms of government fall short of expectations of the people, they (people) believe that the judiciary would make up for the shortcomings of the other arms of government.
The relevant laws governing the polity are believed to be interpreted correctly by the judiciary. This is, however, most often than not unrealistic.
The scale of judiciary in Nigeria has been moving up and down in the recent past. The pendulous movement of the scale has raised many doubts over the question of fairness of the third arm of government. Their interpretation of the relevant laws that govern the scheme of events in the polity sometimes appears biased and questionable. Let me quickly cite an example of the point I’m making; Section 269-270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Ondo State, 2015 make provision allowing the Magistrate Court to remand an accused person for a period of over 100 days, pending the outcome of legal advice from the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), upon the establishment of probable cause.
It is, however, appalling that most of the accused persons are usually remanded even where no such probable cause has been established.
The Law leaves too much to be desired. It leaves us in limbo as to what should be done where no probable cause has been established. The accused person usually end up being denied his constitutional right to bail and end up being remanded by the Magistrate for unjustifiable reasons under the guise that the Magistrate Court lacks jurisdiction to try the offence.
This in my opinion cannot be the right interpretation of the Law. In fact, that cannot be the intendment of the drafters of that Law. The judiciary is enjoined to fill the vacuum where a ‘lacuna’ has been created by a statute.
The proper thing in my opinion, is to admit such an accused person to bail.
The judiciary is no longer the last hope of the common man. It could at best be said to be the hope of the elite.
Based on the foregoing premise, there is no alternative to getting it right in our judicial system.
The judiciary must maintain its unbiased umpire that it was meant to be. The judiciary should not be taken as a political tool by the executive. Justice must be taken as a constant and perpetual disposition of legal rules to render every man his due, no matter how high or low in the society.
Mr Uloh Goodluck, a policeman
Court by its definition and also by the act and legislature that established it and being the third arm of the government and a product of the Nigeria Constitution is supposed to be the last hope for common man.
There are some issues where an highly placed person would have a case with the most poorest person in the society. But the fact remains that the court is no respecter of any human being. When they bring such an issue before the court, it will be viewed on its merits, even though such person is the husband to the sitting magistrate or judge, a family friend or close ally, the law closes its eyes.
That is why you see the eyes of the law statue covered, carried scales and a sword, which symbolises that when sitting over a case, you must close your eyes. You must not allow your brain to be controlled by sentiment or personality, wealth, position or affluence of the person standing before you. Close your eyes and adjudicate when necessary.
That is why you see individuals winning cases against the government, because it is the last hope for the common man and everything that comes to the court is viewed on merits.
By intimidation, some people do not go to the police station or any organ that is investigating cases, because such people might have been intimidated that, ‘If they see you there, you will see what I will do to you’.
But when it comes to the court, the person would be under the protection of the law. Anything that happens to that person will be viewed as if the opponent that is in a case with him is the one that is responsible. In that case, everybody relax their noise.
So, when you see what is happening in practise, in the reality and by the definition of it, you will see that it goes in conformity that indeed, court is the last hope for the common man. Because law is no respecter of anybody.
Prophetess Florence Oluwatobi Ilemobade
As a minister of God, I cannot condemn the existence or establishment of court or judiciary. Even in the bible, there were courts and they were being monitored by the Almighty God through his laws. The fear of God was imposed into justice then. This we can see in II Chronicles 19: 5 – 11. The reflection of the fear of God still exist in 1980’s and a bit of it at early 1990’s. But nowadays, justice is being done wrongly.
The courts nowadays are being controlled by the elite people. If you don’t have money you may not win a case. The world has be corrupted and this corruption is everywhere.
What I am trying to say, in a nutshell is, in the olden days, the court could be the last hope for a common man, despite the fact that God is always the last hope.
But in this new age, court can be a hope, but not the last hope because a common man cannot afford to pay the amount of money that would be needed to win a case. Yet, a common man can easily cry out to God and leave the case for God to handle it.
In Romans 12: 19, we were told not to avenge ourselves. But rather leave the case for God. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” says the Lord. When we look at the death of Jezebel in the book of 2 Kings, we realise that God’s judgment is fatal. It is beyond human capacity.
Stephen Oluwagbade, Political analyst
As people always say, court is the last hope of the common man. Even the high and mighty are supposed to have hope in the court/judiciary in a civilized society. However, whether the common and the uncommon man have unshakable hope in the Nigerian judiciary is debatable depending on implementation the side of the society where justice is being practice. That is, equality before the law.
As for me, court can be the last hope of a common man where constitution is being practiced diligently. But I do not think that is applicable to Nigeria. Money and personality has taken over the Nigeria Constitution. As far as you have your money to settle or bribe the people in charge, the case will be turned around or twisted against the common man.
That is why we need to preach more against corruption in this country. Corruption as taken over every angle in the nation. Hardly will you see reputable or high classes of people being charged to court. And these are the most corrupt set of people that swallow Nigeria’s money. But a common man who steals a tuber of yam from another person’s farm in order to conquer hunger will be charged to court.
A common man is supposed to be happy that his case is charged to court because justice will prevail. But not now.
They leave murderer and convict innocent in replacement, because he has nobody.
There are instances where a poor man and a rich man committed the same offence, and the poor will be convicted, while the rich will not even appear in court. That is Nigeria for us.
Until we are able to conquer corruption in this country that is when I believe normalcy can take place.
In my own opinion, the Almighty God is the only hope for a common man and not court.
– Mr Paul Attah, legal practitioner
The judiciary is that arm of government that has the responsibility of interpreting the law and administering justice. See Section 6 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
The court all over the world, is regarded as the hope of the common man. In essence, what this means is that the only place the common man can get justice, when dispute arises, is the court. But how true is this?
In the administration of justice, the court being the threshold of justice is the reason why the common man has always deemed it fit appropriate to approach the court of law to seek redress.
The expectation of this generation is for the judges and magistrates and all those saddled with that responsibility to live above board in the discharge of judicial duties.
They are expected to live like Caesar’s wife, above board. The action and inaction of these persons affect the litigants either good or bad.
It is the judiciary that curbs the excesses of other two arms (e.g the executive and legislative), being the watchdog of the society.
The symbol of justice is the Lady Justice, whose eyes are blindfolded, which brings to our knowledge that law is no respecter of persons. The lady holds a scale of justice by her left hand, and a sword of justice by the right hand.
Remaining blind to personality and status makes it pure to meet the hope of all men, whether common or uncommon.
It is worthy of note that a corrupt judge is more harmful to the society than a man who runs amok with dagger in a crowded street.
Where a common man cannot get justice in the court, the judiciary would be a disaster and our society will suffer.
The confidence of common men depends largely on the trust he lays on judiciary.