By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
National Judicial Council, NJC, has Okayed investigation into a petition filed before it by the governorship candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in Zamfara State, Alhaji Sani Shinkafi.
The petition, which was received by the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria on February 26, alleged that a Zamfara State High Court judge engaged in “gross abuse of office and judicial rascality,” when he presided over a political case marked ZMS/GS/52/2018, pertaining to the March 9 governorship election.
According to the document before the NJC, Justice Bello Muhammed Shinkafi spurned the judicial hierarchy by going ahead to deliver judgment on a matter pending before the Sokoto State Division of the Court of Appeal.
The APGA flag-bearer alleged that the high court judge took the action after he was notified that the appellate court was already seized of the facts of the case, thereby violating his right to fair hearing as enshrined under section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The petition, copies of which were also sent to the Chief Judge of Zamfara State and Chairman of the Zamfara State Judicial Service Commission, read in part: “I applied to be joined as an interested party in the above named case before Hon. Justice Belto Muhammed Shinkaft of Zamfara State High Court No 3.
“However, in a ruling the said judge refused my application and I then headed to the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division. (copy of the Notice appeal herewith attached).
“To ensure all court process and procedures were made in order and never take chance, my counsel had also filed a motion for stay of proceedings pending appeaI before the High Court.
‘’It is highly disturbing to have imagined how Justice Belle would go ahead to deliver judgment despite my appeal pending before Court of Appeal.
“Sir, judiciary and all stakeholders in the administration of Justice are known to be ethical, professional and disciplined.
‘’Regards and respect for seniority is an already established decorum that was never challenged especially among judges, let alone of a case like this where the hierarchy of the two Courts in question were defined by the constitution.”
“My lords, l have considered with greatest dismay the action of Justice Bello as unethical and unprofessional. It speaks the volume of his unpreparedness to strict adherence to the rule of law and an already established Court process and procedures.
“The tendency of Justice Bello’s complexity and complication in the instant case is glaring, point to the fact that, he has been a High Court Judge for good number of years and serves as Judiciary Staff throughout his career.
‘’He could not have claimed mistake or ignorance of the fact that where there is an interlocutory appeal against the ruling of a particular Court, the lower Court, should be stopped from delivering a judgment come what may until the Appeal Court gives its verdict on the interlocutory issue before it.
“It is trite that in the instant case, most especially as the issues involved the right of fear hearing of the applicant, such right must be determined.
“Supreme Court in good number of cases made it clear that with or without application for Stay of Proceeding, the lower Court should ordinarily have stopped its proceeding whenever an appeal is filed before a higher count.
“From the above my Lords it is crystal clear that before the High Court No 3 of Zamfara State presided over by Justice Bello Muhammad Shinkafi delivers her Judgement in the above mentioned suit on the 25th January, 2019, there was a pending application for stay of proceeding pending appeal which was not heard and decided.
“The appeal before the Court of Appeal in Appeal No: ZMS/GS/52/2018 is still pending and in the event it is decided in my favour and Appeal Court says am a necessary party and shall be joined as a party the Judgement of the High Court No 3 had rendered the decision of the Court of Appeal useless. I wonder how could this have been?
“My Lords Judiciary should be seen as a last hope of a common man and this kind of abuse and rascality by Hon. Justice Shinkafi must be stopped.
“The integrity and reputation of the Judiciary is better protected from the inside. But where such clear violation of peoples right and back starving of justice process are noticeably perpetrated by those who are supposed to protect the system, the result will be catastrophe.
“My Lords, your Iove for justice and fair play command respect and confidence. l have no doubt in your ability to administer justice and also to see justice is administered to the parties regardless of whose ox would be gored.
“I, therefore, humbly urge you to use your good offices to look deeply into the issues I raised herein for the sake of justice and the image of Judiciary.
“The hope of command man like myself must be raised to the vertex and no chance should be given for ordinary man to think twice about justice and its administration under your leadership.
‘’You must do the needful my Lords to serve as deterrent to others and to avoid bringing in Judiciary into disrepute and crisis,” the petition read.