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COORDINATE JUDGES CANNOT OVERTURN ONE ANOTHER

Dictum

In NWANI vs. EDE (1996) 8 NWLR (pt. 466) 332, Tobi, JCA (as he then was) stated: “It is a general principle of law that a Judge lacks the jurisdiction to overturn the decision of another Judge, even if he feels strongly that the decision is wrong. Such a judicial conduct is tantamount to presiding over the decision of the brother Judge on appeal. The Constitution does not allow such a procedure…”

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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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COUNSEL SHOULD NOT MISQUOTE JUDGE

I will pause here to advise that learned counsel when referring to statements made by trial Judges should not impute words not said by them, or misquote their statements and present statements which were not actually uttered or remarked by them (the Judges). A close look at the passage quoted above leaves one in no doubt that the Judge did not say that the depositions were of no assistance to him . Rather, what he said was that they were of little assistance to him . He is therefore misunderstood or quoted out of context.

– Sanusi JCA. Enejo v. Nasir (2006)

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A JUDGE IS A HUMAN BEING

In the course of writing a judgment, a Judge analyses sequence of events as they recur and in the process makes some observations and comments. After all he is a human being who is bound by feelings and to express such feelings is not forbidden, as long as he is careful as not to be swayed by it. In other words, a Judge cannot be put in a straight jacket and expected to be so restricted without the liberty to put his thoughts into writing.

– Mukhtar JSC. Nwankwo v. Ecumenical (2007)

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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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THE JUDGE MUST BE OBEDIENT TO THE WILL OF PARLIAMENT

Lord Denning, M.R., in DUPORT STEELS LTD v. SIRS (1980) 1 ALL E.R. 529, where it was said by Lord Scarman in his Speech at p. 551 (on an appeal from Lord Denning’s Lead judgment in that case) that: “But in the field of statute law the Judge must be obedient to the will of Parliament as expressed in its enactments. In this field Parliament makes and unmakes the law, the judge’s duty is to interpret and to apply the law, not to change it to meet the judge’s idea of what justice requires. Interpretation does, of course, imply in the interpreter a power of choice where differing constructions is possible. But our law requires that the judge choose the construction which in his judgment best meets the legislative purpose of the enactment. If the result is unjust but inevitable, the judge may say so and invite Parliament to reconsider the provision. But he must not deny the statute. Unpalatable statute may not be disregarded or rejected, merely because it is unpalatable. Only if a just result can be achieved without violating the legislative purpose of the statute may the judge select the construction which best suits his idea of what justice requires.”

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WHEN A JUDGE SITS BOTH AS A JUDGE AND JURY

It is quite another thing when a Judge sits both as trial – Judge and jury. In this connection we draw attention, with approval, to the observations of the West African Court of Appeal in R. v. Adebanjo & ors. (1935) 2 WACA 315: “…..We think it (is) going altogether too far to demand that a Judge, sitting as both judge and jury, should commence his judgment by directing himself as to the burden of proof, the doctrine of reasonable doubt, and the elements which constitute the offences with which the accused is, or are, charged. To our minds it must be presumed that a learned Judge, sitting as both Judge jury, has directed himself aright in matters of law unless the contrary appears from the judgment……..” (Underlining supplied by this court) – See (1935) 2 WACA at P. 321 per Atkin, J.

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