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FGN V CJN: Appeal Court Judgment on Justice Nganjiwa(3)

The National Judicial Council as envisaged under Paragraph 21(b) Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The foregoing has been affirmed in a host of judicial authorities including ELELU -HABEEB 85 ANOR v A.G. FEDERATION: OPENE

I have examined the Charge which is mainly made up of 13 allegations of corruption allegedly committed by the Appellant as a sitting Judge of the Federal High Court and the last count relates to statement made to the EFCC during investigation. It is obvious from the various counts that the Appellant is purportedly being charged with “unlawful enrichment by Public office,” while being a Judge of the Federal High Court.

Justice Nganjiwa

It must be expressly stated that if a judicial officer commits theft, fraud, murder or manslaughter, arson and the likes, which are crimes committed outside the scope of the performance of his offlcial functions, he may be arrested, interrogated and prosecuted accordingly by the State DIRECTLY Without recourse to the NJC. These classes of criminal acts are not envisaged and captured by the provisions of paragraph 21, part 1 of the Third Schedule. On the other hand, if any Judicial Officer commits a professional misconduct Within the scope of his duty and is investigated, arrested and subsequently prosecuted by security agents without a formal complaint/report to the NJC, it Will be a usurpation of the latter’s constitutionally guaranteed powers under Section 158 and paragraph 21 Part 1 of the Third Schedule, thereby inhibiting, and  interfering with and obstructing  the NJ C from carrying out its disciplinary control over erring judicial officers as clearly provided.

Charges against Onnoghen an egregious rape on separation of powers – Owonikoko

by the constitution. This will thus amount to a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed independence of (a fundamental component) of the judiciary. See ELELU HABEEB 8r. ANOR v A.G. FEDERATION (supra). 

I need to emphasize that the Constitution of this country, being the ground norm, and fundamental legal order of the state clearly recognises and guarantees the doctrine of separation of powers and checks and balances. Sections 4, 5 and 6 thereof contain provisions relating to the legislative, executive and judicial arms of the government. In most known democracies, the judiciary is always accorded the freedom to conduct its affairs without fear of interference, intimation, threat, ill-Will from any other arm of government. It is in order to ensure that this is done that the NJC was established under the Constitution and specifically given the power to discipline any of its Judicial officers who misconducts himself in accordance with the provision of paragraph 21 (b) part 1 of the 3rd Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. See EZE v FRN [1987] NWLR (PT 51). 

The Supreme Court aptly captured the principle behind separation of powers in A.G. ABIA STATE & ORS v A.G. FEDERATION (2003) LPELR 610 (so) 23 24, paras E A, per BELGORE, JSC where the court held:

“The principle behind the concept of separation of powers is that none of the three Arms of Government under the Constitution should encroach into the powers of the other. Each arm – the Executive, Legislative and Judicial – is separate, equal and of coordinate department and no arm can constitutionally take over the functions clearly assigned to the other. Thus, the powers and functions constitutionally entrusted to each arm cannot be encroached upon by the other. The doctrine is to promote efficiency in governance by precluding the exercise of arbitrary power by all the arms and thus prevent friction.”

See GLOBAL TRANSPORT OCEANICO S. A. 65 ANOR 17 FREE 

ENTERPRISES NIG. LTD (2001) LPELR 1324 (SC). 

Whereas in the instant case, the Constitution has stipulated steps that must be taken before an action can proceed; omitting to do so would render such act a nullity.

See ONYEDEBELU v NWANERI & ORS (2008) LPELR 4793 (CA); GTB PLC v TANK INVESTMENT LTD.

 


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