By Bartholomew Madukwe
As the new legal year commences across the country, with some States organising programmes to herald same, some of the issues that have militated against the judiciary in legal years were raised by legal practitioners who spoke with Vanguard Law and Human Rights. Those who spoke are Professor Itse Sagay SAN, Prof Tahir Mamman SAN, Chief G.A. Adetola-Kaseem SAN, Chief Adekunle Oyesanya SAN, Chief Morah Ekwunoh and Mr Collins Okeke. Excerpts:
THERE will be judgments tainted by corruption– Prof Itse Sagay SAN
You cannot really predict what is going to happen, how the judiciary particularly is going to respond to the dynamics of politics and social activities which will lead to court cases. There will be good judgments; there will be very bad judgments. There will be principle and upright judgments, there will be judgments tainted by corruption.
There is no clear movement away from impunity, yet impropriety and the perverseness we have seen in some of the cases that have come out of our courts, but the good ones are also there. So I think it is going to be a mixed bag. We need a very strong hand at the helm of affairs to bring about the improvement that will make us optimistic in the future.
Nigerians hope for a judiciary to deliver quick access to substantive justice– Prof Tahir Mamman SAN
In this judicial year, Nigerians are hoping for a judiciary that will deliver better, efficient and quick substantive justice. The masses hope for a judiciary where looters of public funds will have their day in court and get their just reward for damages done to our dear country; a judiciary that will continue to cleanse and sanitise the political and democratic process to a affirm the fact that power belongs to the citizenry.
Nigerians want to see a judiciary that will coordinate its affairs without causing confusion to litigants in respect of courts of coordinate jurisdiction handing down conflicting judgments. They expect to see a judiciary that realises that time is also a key component of its work as it is commonly expressed that justice delayed is justice denied.
Also, we want to see a judiciary that is modernised in its operations for their own good and that of those who go to it soliciting justice and a judiciary that enjoys the confidence of its citizens.
Economic recession won’t affect court judgments– Chief G.A. Adetola-Kaseem SAN
We have prayed and we believe that God will answer our prayers. All legal practitioners, both Christian and Muslims, thanked God for the course of the new legal year benefit to humanity.
Though the country is presently facing economic recession, I don’t think it will affect the judgments from the courts in this new legal year. There are two things, recession or no recession, anybody that wants to be corrupt will be corrupt. Anybody who believes in doing the right thing, whether as a lawyer, judge or litigant, will do it. It has to do with the orientation of the individual and the fear of God that he/she has.
I don’t think recession should be an excuse for anybody to be corrupt. Corruption is a thing of the mind, individual’s orientation and development.
The Executive should not be seen undermining the judiciary– Chief Adekunle Oyesanya SAN
The judiciary is just a combination of the Bench and the Bar, as far as I am concerned, because it is from the Bar you get the Bench. So first and foremost, I want the National Judicial Council, (NJC), to ensure that the appointment of judges is given very serious attention, it is very important. When you begin to hear the judgment of some judges, it is because there was something wrong in the appointment of such judges.
Also, judges who have been reported to be involved in any kind of misconduct, the NJC should look into the issue critically, with a view to sanitising the judiciary. On the other hand, I do not subscribe to some lawyers reporting judges for issues which they should challenge at the Court of Appeal. It is not right and such is not part of our training. A judge could be genuinely wrong.
A judge is just human at the end of the day. So this should not mean that every judgment that a judge delivers against the counsel means he/she has been compromised. Then the lawyer will start maligning the judge and write petition to the NJC. It is not right. The Bar and the Bench need to work together this time around to make the judiciary better
Another thing is that the Executive should be careful in their utterances. It is not right for the Executive, at whatever level, to be seen trying to intimidate the judiciary. The court makes up part of government. Whenever a court gives a judgment that does not seem to go well with the Executive, they should not be seen making statements that are not right.
The Judiciary and Executive are equal partners in governance. If a court pronounces a judgment and they don’t like it, the Executive can go on appeal, even to the Supreme Court. That is what democracy is about. The Executive should not be seen undermining the judiciary, as it has happened in some cases.
I think if we can do these, we will have a better judiciary in this 2016/2017 new legal year.
NJC should look more into activities of judges– Mr Collins Okeke
I am hoping that we will have a faster and more expeditious system. I am also expecting that we will be able to deal with corruption and unethical practices. I hope that the CJN will be able to keep to his promises and cases that are before the NJC against judges said to be corrupt will be expeditiously dealt with; I will also want to see some disciplinary action from the Council. Basically, that is what is undermining the sanctity of the judiciary.
The stream of justice should be kept pure and ever flowing– Chief Morah Ekwunoh
Expectations which shall take pride of place in the new legal year are clearly multi-dimensional, which touches and concerns, five main areas.
First is the recurring issue of financial autonomy for the judiciary, which, if achieved will ensure full independence for the judiciary and its extrication from executive control and interference, since its annual budgets and estimates will now be directly charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, pursuant to the community readings and effects of sections 80, 81 and 84, among others, of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), as well as the commendable judgments of Justices Adeniyi Ademola and J. O. Adeyeye, both arising from the suits by Olisa Agbakoba.
Second, is the added imperative of keeping the stream of justice pure and ever flowing, by ensuring that the scale of justice is fairly and impartially held firm between, and amongst, all contending parties in dispute,no matter whose ox is gored, even if the ox is of the government. In this way, confidence in, and, by extension, enthusiastic access to, the judiciary will skyrocket, with the sky being the only limit.
Issues of independence
Third, and related to the above referenced issues of independence, fairness and impartiality, is the judicial insistence, if you like, on stubborn basis, upon obedience and due respect for its judgments, rulings and orders, since existence of the third arm will be meaningless if its judgments, orders and rulings are stifled, with impunity, particularly, by the executive.
In extreme cases, if resignation of judges or justices, as the case may be, is considered, it is not so much a price for payment in this regard, more so, if such disobedience is from the government which, in turn, expects correlative respect for its executive actions, as carried out and executed within the ambit of the law.
In this respect, Justice Junaid, who resigned on account of disobedience of his orders by Mr John Odigie-Oyegun, then a federal Permanent Secretary, remains a hero in the comity of crusaders for judicial independence.