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Judicial ‘murders’and Nigerian politics – 2

By Dele Sobowale

Time was when a  lawyer could predict the likely outcome of a case because of the facts, the law and the brilliance of the lawyers that handled the case. Today things have changed and nobody can be sure….Nowadays, politicians would text the outcome of the judgment to their party men before judgment is delivered and prepare their supporters ahead of time for celebration”. Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, in PUNCH, September 23, 2012, p 9 in an article titled Toying with corruption in the temple of justice.

The new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, has a whale of a job on her hands; if she intends to make good on her promise to stop corruption in the judiciary. That Sunday’s PUNCH reached me in one of the Southsouth states where, as usual, I had gone to mind everybody’s business.

It was in connection with another Election Tribunal case which had just been decided by a High Court on technicalities – the Honourable Justice, declared, after sitting on the case for several months, that he lacked jurisdiction. Three facts about the matter call for national, if not global, outrage.

First, bearing in mind the new Electoral Act stipulation that all election petitions must be concluded within 120 days, why should a judge spend almost all those days deciding whether he had jurisdiction or not? Second, the matter of jurisdiction was earlier raised in the case. Instead of addressing it, and saving time, the judge promised to deal with it when judgment is given; only to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.

Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Aloma Mariam Muktar,

Third, and this might shock nearly everybody (even in a country immune to shocks), complainants and the justice especially, plans for celebration were already made before the judgment was delivered in court. The last bit was one of several things which I discovered on my trip down south. That tallied with the statement credited to Chief Afe Babalola. That alone should make all of us tremble that the judiciary had sunk so low.

Three questions which the Chief Justice must address, urgently, as this case moves to the Court of Appeals, are as follows: Why was it possible for the defendants to know the outcome before the verdict was rendered in court? Second, if every court in a zone disclaims jurisdiction for a breach of the constitution committed in that zone, how would aggrieved parties ever get justice? Third, as one of the defendants was often heard to boast, “if money cannot buy it, more money can buy it”, while summarizing his “Ghana-Must-Go” policy on how to settle disputes in his favour. The issue is, has this judgment been bought?

As far as I am concerned, the defendant is at liberty to use any method, fair and foul, to win his case. It is the judiciary which must be held to account for miscarriage of justice…

“Useless laws weaken the necessary laws”, Charles Montes quieu, 1689-1755. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, P 122).

The amendment to the Electoral Act, which stipulated that all cases must be completed by 120 days, was not intended to provide corrupt justices the escape route to avoid dispensing justice based on the merit of cases before them. Unfortunately, that has become one of the unintended consequences of that law. The immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Honourable Justice Musdapher, in his brief period at the top did his best to address this crime against the people.

In one case, involving the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidates, which found its way to the Supreme Court, the court actually sent the case back to the lower court to be determined on its merits instead of technicalities. Unfortunately, petitions concerning the Akwa Ibom governor’s election are still in the courts.

A High Court’s ruling, which will be appealed, has once again raised the issue of courts’ impartiality in such matters and their tendency to dismiss cases on technicalities. Reproduced, next week, is a portion of the judgment, which was delivered after the court sat on the case for over three months.

“0803-410-0797: Your articles on Oct 1, ELDERLY PERSONS DAY, were a matter of talking to the deaf.  The Fed Gov in particular does not pay senior citizens their monthly pension. D govt prefers to kill all d old pensioners. Tell GEJ to please pay pensioners, as and when due.. Barr. P.S. Bolu, Delta State.

P.S. Sir, left to me half the Ministers and Commissioners in Nigeria will be sacked and the funds applied to pay pensioners. I cherish old people, especially men, because I have known of only one male in my family who made it to 70 in 200 years. One day GEJ will be touched positively.

Even with the short notice and without sending out formal invitations, the first ever Older Persons Day was marked at Glover Hall under the Chairmanship of Dr Michael Omolayole, OFR – to whom we are eternally indebted. So was Dr Victor Hammond, former Managing Director of Akintola-Williams, who also graced the occasion. Awards were given out to two persons – one living, the other recently passed on.

Monsignor Pedro Martins, 102 years old, and the oldest living former military officer received on behalf of himself and others over I00 years old. Pa Ola Vincent’s Family received the posthumous award on his behalf and all our parents who departed this world. I thank all who came and those who called to share solidarity. Next year will be better.

Meanwhile we have a problem. We ended up owing Glover Hall N350,000. The person who promised to pay for the venue disappointed us.  We need help. Anything you can donate will be appreciated. God will bless you abundantly.

That is not a joke; that is the title of a book which will be launched on Thursday, October I8, 20I2, at the Island Club, Lagos. Written by Chief (Barr) Olufemi Daramola, KJW, the Alage Obaigi II of Omuo Oke, Ekiti, it has more lessons to teach than you can imagine. You are invited – to the launching and to buy the book. You will not regret whatever you do.


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