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IT IS THE FUNCTION OF JUDGES TO KEEP THE LAW ALIVE

Dictum

In Transbridge Co. Ltd. v. Survey International Ltd this court per Eso, JSC pronounced as follows: ‘I believe it is the function of judges to keep the law alive, in motion and to make it progressive for the purposes of arriving at the end of justice, without being inhibited by technicalities, to find every conceivable but accepted way of avoiding narrowness that would spell injustice, short of a judge being a legislator, a judge to my mind, must a possess an aggressive stance in interpreting the law.’

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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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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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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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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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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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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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