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

Dictum

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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NIGERIAN JUDGES AND POLITICIANS MUST NOT BE FOUND MINGLING

I see from Exhibit EP2/34 the need for Nigerian Judges to maintain a very big distance from politics and politicians. Our Constitution forbids any mingling. As Judges, we must obey the Constitution. The two professions do not meet and will never meet at all in our democracy in the discharge of their functions. While politics as a profession is fully and totally based on partiality, most of the time, judgeship as a profession is fully and totally based on impartiality, the opposite of partiality. Bias is the trade mark of politicians. Non-bias is the trade mark of the Judge. That again creates a scenario of superlatives in the realm of opposites. Therefore the expressions, “politician” and “Judge” are opposites, so to say, in their functional contents as above; though not in their ordinary dictionary meaning. Their waters never meet in the same way Rivers Niger and Benue meet at the confluence near Lokoja. If they meet, the victim will be democracy most of the time. And that will be bad for sovereign Nigeria. And so Judges should, on no account, dance to the music played by politicians because that will completely destroy their role as independent umpires in the judicial process. Let no Judge flirt with politicians in the performance of their constitutional adjudicatory functions. When I say this, I must also say that I have nothing against politicians. They are our brothers and sisters in our homes. One can hardly find in any Nigerian community or family without them. There cannot be democracy without them and we need democracy; not despotism, oligarchy and totalitarianism. They are jolly good fellows. The only point I am making is that their professional tools are different from ours and the Nigerian Judge should know this before he finds himself or falls into a mirage where he cannot retrace his steps to administer justice. That type of misfortune can fall on him if the National Judicial Council gets annoyed of his conduct. Ours are not theirs. Theirs are not ours. I will not say more. I will not say less too. So be it.

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

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THE JUDICIARY WILL NOT BE INTIMIDATED DESPITE HARASSMENT

The 2nd Respondent presided over a state where anarchy was being supported and prevented Agents of the Government were allowed to malign the Judiciary. The Judges of this Tribunal were harassed, intimidated and made to run under cover. What is the offence of the Judiciary. It is the duty of the Judiciary to disperse Justice and no more. The Judiciary is an arm of Government constituted by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As stated above the Respondents contributed heavily in the success of this petition. At the pleading stage they made critical admissions. At the trial stage they supplied critical and important documents. Yet at judgment stage the 20 Respondent does not want this Tribunal to stand by justice by stating the truth of the matter. They took the position as was widely reported in the media both print and social that if they loose the case, they will kill the Judges and put the Residence of Kano State on fire. They threatened to bring unrest and banditry to Kano State. We are also citizens of this country in Kano to discharge our lawful duties. We have not committed any offence by performing our duty of adjudication. My message to the bandits in politics who want to take power by force is that the Judiciary cannot be intimidated. The Judiciary will never shy away from justice. Every Judge is a Soldier of justice, we are blessed with the courage to call a spade a spade and to do justice according to the law without fear or favour. Where a party purport to have his eyes on the Judiciary and remove same from his case, the Judiciary will still do its work. You remove your eyes from your case, you abandoned your case and concentrated on distracting yourself by having your jaundiced eye on the Judiciary. The Judiciary as represented by the Honourable Judges will concentrates on their duty of adjudication and put their own eyes on the law and justice. All judicial activities must necessarily and with the final decision of the Court. This is called a judgment. Upon the judgment of the Court parties can only acknowledge the decision of the Court, accord it respect and if not satisfied, go on appeal. A party who looses a case or anticipates the loss of his case can only prepare to appeal against the decision of the lower Court or prepare to appeal. This is what is obtainable in a civilised society. Kano State as we all know is a cradle of civilisation. No party on the account of loosing a case or on the basis of speculation of the possible loss of a case threaten to go an rampage against the Court and Honourable Judges. It is wrong to threaten the entire polity of Kano State with violence. A party must not threaten terrorism and mayhem on the people. The decision of the court must not be taken personal as to warrant an attack and violence against the Judiciary Functionaries as threatened by the Agents of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents. I use this opportunity to condemn the gang of Red Cap wearers who like a violent and terrorist cult chased us out of Kano and put us in the fear of our lives. We believe that only Allah is the giver of power. Those who believe in Allah must bow to his will and submit to the authority of Governmental power. Resort to anarchy, violence and killing can never be a source of lawful power. Threatening to put Honourable Judges in the danger of their life as done in Kano by some disgruntled bandits parading as politicians is hereby condemned.

– Benson Anya, J. APC v INEC & Ors. (EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023, 20th Day of September, 2023)

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A JUDGE IS EXPECTED TO BE STRAIGHTFORWARD IN HIS JUDICIAL EXERCISE

A Judge by the nature of his position and professional calling is expected to be straightforward, upright, diligent, consistent and open in whatever he does in court and in any other place of human interaction and human endeavour that he happens to find himself. This is because his character as a Judge is public property. He is the cynosure of the entire adjudication in the court, and like caesar’s wife of Ancient Rome, he is expected to live above board and above suspicion, and he must live above board and above suspicion, if the judicial process should not experience any reverse or suffer any detriment. A Judge should know that by the nature of his judicial functions, he is persistently and consistently on trial for any improper conduct immediately before, during and immediately after the trial of a case. In Bakare v. Apena and others (1986) 4 NWLR (pt. 33) 1, Obaseki, JSC said that “a trial Judge ought to know that he is on trial for any improper conduct during the trial of a case before him and immediately thereafter”. By his judicial functions, a Judge is expected to hold the balance in the litigation process and he must be overtly seen as holding the balance evenly.

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

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COORDINATE JUDGES CANNOT OVERTURN ONE ANOTHER

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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IF GOVERNOR IS ALLOWED TO APPOINT & REMOVE JUDICIAL OFFICERS WITHOUT NJC

If the Governor alone is allowed to, in exercise of his Executive power, appoint directly, and discipline judicial officers of his State, this may, no doubt, lead to avoidable corruption and prevent judicial officers from carrying out their functions freely and without any intimidation by the Executive. Judicial Officers may become stooges of the Governor of the State for fear of been removed from office unceremoniously.

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

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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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