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The #Nigerian judiciary is often said to be "The last hope of the Common (Wo)Man". It's a venue for deliberative decision making & authoritative statement of the standards that govern us all. The quality of decisions coming from there in recent times is now cause for concern....
4 recent decisions illustrate a worrying pattern of perverse reasoning from #Nigerian courts & tribunals. In Jan 2019, the Code of Conduct Tribunal, a body controlled by the executive arm, issued an ex-parte order to suspend the Chief Justice of #Nigeria
A lot of attention is rightly paid to the seriousness of charges against Chief Justice #Onnoghen. But precisely because of that, they deserved dispassionate due process. Now, few ppl will accord them serious weight because of the deep deficiency of process
A 2nd example occurred in March 2019, when the Supreme Court overturned the disbarment of Kunle Kalejaiye (KK), a Senior Advocate of #Nigeria (SAN), whom the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) disbarred for bribing an election petition panel
The Supreme Court decided in the case of KK-SAN, that his trial by the LPDC had breached some rules of fair hearing. The right remedy in that case, however, was to send the case back for re-trial. Now, KK-SAN will probably be known as the SAN who bribed judges & got away with it
A 3rd example is the case of ex-#Buharist, #IGWala, convicted also in March 2019 on charges of unlawful assembly & criminal defamation by a court that appeared to not care about the element of the crimes charged. The Court specifically ordered his imprisonment in Suleja prison
Unquestionably, the most serious problem with the judgment in #IGWala's case was the manifest partisanship of the Court, which, in sentencing him, expressly relied expressly on the "Change" slogan of the ruling @OfficialAPCNg to justify what the law forbade him from doing
4th is yesterday's decision in on-going presidential @atiku v. @MBuhari case in which the Appeal Court yesterday unanimously dismissed motion for recusal of Judge President, Bulkachuwa, whose husband is Senator-Elect of @OfficialAPCNg, a respondent
Justice Bulkachuwa's son, Adamu Abubakar, also aspired to be Governor of Gombe State, on the same party platform. The Appeal Court ruled unanimously that these factors did not add up to sufficient reason for the Judge President to recuse herself. That's perverse
Rule 12(a) of the Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers in #Nigeria requires that "A Judicial Officer should disqualify himself in a proceeding in which his impartiality may genuinely & reasonably be questioned."
This was a case in which the lawyer for the ruling party, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, who opposed the application, nevertheless said: "U are old enough to be my mother. My lord, you standing in as my parent, I will say, ‘Mum, leave the matter.”
....and the President's own lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, said Justice Bulkachuwa's decision to recuse herself from further participation in the matter "had saved the judiciary from an embarrassment."
So, all the parties saw that there were reasonable grounds for questioning the impartiality of the Judge President, which is a real problem. In effect, the requirements of Rule 12(a) of the Judicial Code of Conduct were met. But the Court of Appeal panel cld not see it.
The sad thing is, if a law student in the Ethics paper in the Law School had this fact scenario as a hypothetical & gave the same answer the Appeal Court gave yesterday, the student would surely have failed. That's how perverse this ruling is.
The real damage of this decision will become evident long after this saga of this current presidential election petition is over, when lawyers begin to cite it to judges similarly conflicted out otherwise. It's a potentially toxic precedent.
Each of these decisions cld raise hackles. Together however & over such a short span, they begin to describe a pattern that shd worry anyone interested in the integrity of judicial decision making. The standing of the #Nigerian judiciary as #LastHopeOfTheCommonMan is at stake.
By the way, Judge President Bulkachuwa is quoted as having said that she was satisfied that the matter had been settled “based on the facts and the law, so that another female judge will no longer have to face what I have faced.”
It's unclear exactly what Judge President Bulkachuwa has faced. This statement cld suggest that female judges ordinarily get hitched to high flying politicians & have usually to preside over cases involving the parties on which their spouses are elected. That's obviously not true
The effort to somehow feminize what should have bn a straightforward judgement call in favour of judicial integrity is gratuitous at best & beneath the standing of a worthy Bench. If a male judge were in a similar position, the same concerns wld clearly apply.
The failure to exercise this judgement in a timely manner has produced toxic jurisprudence whose awful consequences will live with the system for long after Judge President Bulkachuwa has completed her judicial term which shd come to an end in 2020. That may be her legacy. /END
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