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A JUDGE SHOULD BE SOBER

Dictum

It has always been my considered view that sobriety should be the first watch-word for anyone who, per chance, finds himself in the exalted position of a judge. A judicial officer should not be talkative or loquacious. Indeed, he should not be boisterous. He should be polite to witnesses and lawyers who appear before him. Above all, a judge should not be biased under any guise. It needs no further gain-saying that Auta J. should watch his steps in the discharge of his judicial functions. My Learned brother has said it all. I also allow the appeal and abide by all consequential orders including that relating to costs in the lead judgment.

— John Afolabi Fabiyi, JSC. Nnamdi Eriobuna & Ors. V. Ikechukwu Obiorah (CA/E/77/99, 24 May 1999)

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PROCESS FOR REMOVAL OF A CHIEF JUDGE BY A STATE GOVERNOR

It is not difficult to see that for the effective exercise of the powers of removal of a Chief Judge of a State by the Governor and House of Assembly, the first port of call by the Governor on his journey to remove a Chief Judge of the State shall be the National Judicial Council which is equipped with the personnel and resources to investigate the inability of the Chief Judge to discharge the functions of his office the subject of disciplinary action of removal through the Committees of the Council and where the infirmity of the mind or body is involved the services of a medical board to examine and submit appropriate report on the Chief Judge to be affected could also avail the Council in the process of investigation.

– Mahmud, JSC. Elelu-Habeeb v. A.G Federation (2012)

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A JUDGE IS TO EXAMINE CASES BEFORE HIM WITH DUE CARE, AND MAY RAISE ANY DEFECT IN A SUIT

This issue reminds of the dictum of this Court in Sodipo v Lemminkainem OY and Anor[1986] 1 NWLR (pt. 15) 220, According to the Court: “A Judge exists to determine disputes and examine with due care and microscopic senses all matters before him in his pursuit of justice.” This dictum, to my mind, is a complete answer to the criticism by the appellants to the way and manner the learned trial Judge resolved the preliminary objection. In the first place, the question of no “live issue” found in the suit, was not raised by any of the parties in arguing the preliminary objection. A trial Judge, however, is within his rights to properly inform himself of a defect in a suit, either with or without external intervention, because it touches directly on the competence of the suit and hence the jurisdiction to entertain it as such. Thus, the established principle that the issue of jurisdiction can be raised at any stage of the proceedings, at the instance of either the parties or by the Court suo motu, Amale v. Sokoto Local Govt and Ors. [2012] 1 SC (pt. IV) 45; Odiase v. Agho [1972] 1 All NLR (pt.1) 170; Petrojessica Entreprises Ltd v. Leventis Technical Co. Ltd, [1992] 2 NWLR (pt. 244) 675. Where however, the issue of jurisdiction is raised, it should be examined in all ramifications. It should not be compartmentalized and subjected to piecemeal examination and treatment, Oloba v Akereja [1988] 3 NWLR (pt. 84) 508. The very many faces of jurisdiction should come under the searchlight and be pronounced upon, notwithstanding that it might not have been brought to the attention of the Court.

— C.C. Nweze, JSC. Uzoho v NCP (SC.141/2007, Friday, May 13, 2022)

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THE EFFECT OF BIAS ON A JUDGE

On the subject of bias, I make bold to say that the allegation once made is a serious one. This in my opinion is more serious because in this instance, the integrity of the Judge is being attacked. The language of bias is indicative of a deliberate action by the Judge to look outside the law and the facts to decide a matter. Accusing a judicial officer of bias is to say that the judicial officer is not fit to take over the responsibility of such great honour and a direct affront to the oath of office that he took on the day he was sworn in. In fact, a Judge is a representative of God on earth and therefore should imbibe the principle of justice and therefore jealously guide this divine calling. To be a judicial officer takes more than knowledge of the law and been intelligent but must more requires good character in both the strict and general sense of the word. An appeal on grounds of bias is a challenge on the character, the integrity of the judicial officer. It is a challenge that takes away from him the covering of decency as a judicial officer. I am going into all that to drive home the point that lawyers should be very careful in accusing a judicial officer of bias except when there is convincing evidence to buttress that. I make bold to say that the time has come for disciplinary action to be taken against lawyers who accuse a Court or Judge of bias which he can not establish. Once a Court has been accused of bias, unfortunately it cannot be taken back and no matter how clean the judicial officer is, there is a dent on his integrity even if it is by one person who earlier held him in high esteem. – EBIOWEI TOBI, J.C.A. Abdul v. State (2021)

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DUE PROCESS FOR REMOVAL OF A STATE JUDGE

This is because any exercise of power to remove a Chief Judge must be based on his:
1. Inability to discharge the functions of office or appointment;
2. The inability to perform the functions of his office could arise from infirmity of the mind or of body;
3. For misconduct or
4. The contravention of the code of conduct.
All these conditions or basis for the exercise of power to remove a State Chief Judge must be investigated and confirmed by credible evidence and placed before the Governor and the House of Assembly before proceeding to exercise their power of removal granted by the Section of the Constitution.

– Mahmud, JSC. Elelu-Habeeb v. A.G Federation (2012)

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SIGNING OF ORIGINATING SUMMONS BY A JUDGE – FORM 2

It is clear from the provisions of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 1979 that nowhere in the body of the Rules is it provided that whenever an originating summons is being taken out it must be signed by a Judge of the High Court to which the originating summons relates. The Rules are silent on such a provision. However, the form of the originating summons which is prescribed in the Appendix to the Rules as Form 2 implies that the originating summons would be signed by a Judge. But nowhere is it provided that it is mandatory for a Judge to sign the originating summons. That notwithstanding, a close examination of Form 2 will reveal that directives are being given to a prospective defendant in an action to do certain things. Some of the directions read as follows – “Let the defendant, within 14 days (or if the summons is to be served out of the jurisdiction, insert here the time for appearance fixed by the order giving leave to issue the summons and serve it out of the jurisdiction) after service of this summons on him, inclusive of the day of service, cause an appearance to be entered to this summons, which is issued on the application of the plaintiff…” “If the defendant does not enter an appearance, such judgment may be given or order made or in relation to him as the court may think just and expedient. The defendant may enter an appearance in person or by a solicitor by handing in the appropriate forms, duly completed, at the Federal High Court at or in the High Court of……..State sitting.” Surely, neither the plaintiff nor his counsel would be expected to issue these directives to the defendant, for the defendant who is at loggerheads with the plaintiff could ignore such directives and to no consequence, since neither the plaintiff nor his counsel could have any power to carryout or enforce the sanctions contained in the directions. It is only a Judge that is conferred with such coercive powers. It, therefore, follows that the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, contemplate that an originating summons issued in the form of Form 2 thereof would be signed by a Judge. What would be the effect if any person other than a Judge signs the originating summons need not bother us here in view of what I intend to state anon.

— Uwais, JSC. Saude v. Abdullahi (1989) – SC.197/1987

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JUDGES ARE TO BE CURRENT WITH THE TIMES

Gbadamosi v. Kabo Travels Ltd (2000) 8 NWLR (Pt. 668) page 243 at paragraphs 288/289, it was held thus:- “Judges are required to keep abreast of time and not to live in complete oblivion to happenings around them. They are to keep pace with the time.”

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