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JUDGES SHOULD NOT BE CASTIGATED FOR PERFORMING THEIR DUTIES

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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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IT IS THE FUNCTION OF JUDGES TO KEEP THE LAW ALIVE

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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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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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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APPELLATE COURT INTERFERENCE WITH TRIAL COURTS DISCRETION

It needs to be emphasised here that an appellate Court will usually not interfere with an exercise of discretion in its quest to obtain substantial justice except where it is satisfied that the discretion was exercised arbitrarily or illegally or without due regard to all necessary consideration having regard to the circumstances of the particular case. – Nweze JSC. Abdullahi v. Adetutu (2019)

Even then, it is well – established that an appellate Court will not, in principle, interfere with the exercise of discretion by the trial Court unless that discretion is shown to have been exercised upon wrong principles or that the exercise was tainted with some illegality or substantial irregularity. – Nweze JSC. Abdullahi v. Adetutu (2019)

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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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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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