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THE EFFECT OF BIAS ON A JUDGE

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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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GOVERNOR CANNOT REMOVE JUDICIAL OFFICER WITHOUT RECOURSE TO NJC

In other words, on the interpretation and application of the provisions of Section 153(1)(i); 271(1); 292(1)(a)(ii) and paragraph 21 of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the Governor of Kwara State and the House of Assembly of Kwara State cannot remove the Chief Judge of Kwara State from office without recourse to and input or participation of the National Judicial Council. That is to say for the purpose of emphasis, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, does not give the Governor of Kwara State acting in conjunction with the House of Assembly of Kwara State absolute power to remove the Chief Judge of the State from his/her office or appointment before the age of retirement without the recommendation of the National Judicial Council.

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

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NATURE OF BIAS IN A PROCEEDING

‘Bias’, generally, is that instinct which causes the mind to incline toward a particular object or course. When a judge appears to give more favour on consideration to one of the parties before him, either in his utterances, attention or actions, which is capable of perverting the cause of justice, or where fair hearing cannot be said to take place, all in favour of the party he supports covertly or overtly, then an allegation of bias against him can be grounded. That of course is a Judicial bias. But where a trial has been conducted in which the authority of the court has fairly been exercised in consistence with the fundamental principles of justice embraced within the conception of the process of law, then there is said to be a fair hearing. This contemplates of allowing the parties equal opportunity to present evidence; to cross-examine witnesses and for the trial court to make findings which are supported by evidence.

– T. Muhammad, JSC. Womiloju v. Anibire (2010) – SC.211/2002

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DUTY OF JUDGE TO INTERPRETE THE LAW

I agree that a judge should be firm and pungent in the interpretation of the law but such should be short of a judge being a legislator. This is because it is the duty of the legislature to make the law and it is the assigned duty of the judge to interpret the law as it is; not as it ought to be. That will be flouting the rule of division of labour as set out by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The provisions of sections 2(1) and 24 of the Act as reproduced above remain the law and shall continue to be so until when same is repealed or amended. For now, I see nothing amiss about the law.

— J.A. Fabiyi, JSC. FBN v. Maiwada (2012) – SC.269/2005

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DETERMINATION OF LIKELIHOOD OF BIAS IS OBJECTIVE TEST TO BE APPLIED

In the determination of a likelihood of bias the test is not subjective but objective. In other words, it is from the point of view of a reasonable man who happened to be present in the court and watched the proceedings. In Chief Abiola v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (1995) 7 NWLR (pt.405) 1, the Supreme Court referred to its earlier decision in Deduwa v. Okorodudu (1976) 1 NMLR 236 in which the court cited with approval what Lord Denning said in Metropolitan properties Co. Ltd v. Lannan and Others: “In considering whether there was a real likelihood of bias, the court does not look at the mind of the justice himself or at the mind of the chairman of the tribunal, or whoever it may be, who sits in a judicial capacity. It does not look to see if there was a real likelihood that he would, or did, in fact favour one side at the expense of the other. The court looks at the impression which would be given to other people. Even if he was as impartial as could be, nevertheless, if right-minded persons would think that, in the circumstances, there was a real likelihood of bias on his part, and then he should not sit. And if he sits, his decision cannot stand … The court will not inquire whether he did, in fact, favour one side unfairly. Suffice it that reasonable people might think he did. The reason is plain enough. Justice must be rooted in confidence; and confidence is destroyed when right-minded people go away thinking: ‘The Judge was biased.” The moment right-minded or right-thinking people are of the view that the Judge was biased or there was likelihood of bias so much violence is done to the fair hearing principles as contained in section 33(1) of the 1979 constitution. This is because the Judge in his biased mind has closed the frontiers of fair hearing against the party he hates as he opens the door to accommodate the case of the party he favours. That is injustice and a court of Law should not be involved in it.

— Niki Tobi, JCA. Nnamdi Eriobuna & Ors. V. Ikechukwu Obiorah (CA/E/77/99, 24 May 1999)

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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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JUDGES SHOULD NOT BE CASTIGATED FOR PERFORMING THEIR DUTIES

The way politics in this country is played frightens me every dawning day. It is a fight to finish affair. Nobody accepts defeat at the polls. The Judges must be the final bus stop. And when they come to the Judges and the Judges in their professional minds give judgment, they call them all sorts of names. To the party who wins the case, the Judiciary is the best place and real common hope of the common man. To the party who loses, the Judiciary is bad. Even when a party loses a case because of serious blunder of Counsel, it is the Judge who is blamed. Why? While I know as a matter of fact that in every case, the Judge makes an additional enemy, if I use the word unguardedly, I must say that the Judge does not regard the person as his enemy. The Judge who has given judgment in the light of the law, should not be castigated in the way it is done in this country. That is a primitive conduct and I condemn it. It is a conduct that does not help the promotion of the administration of justice. It is rather a conduct that is likely to affect adversely the administration of justice in this country. I feel very strongly that Nigerian Judges should be allowed to perform their judicial functions to the best of their ability. I should also say that no amount of bad name-calling will deter Nigerian Judges from performing their constitutional functions of deciding cases between two or more competing parties. Somebody must be trusted in doing the correct thing. Why not the Nigerian Judge?

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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