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NIGERIAN JUDGES AND POLITICIANS MUST NOT BE FOUND MINGLING

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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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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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DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS OF A JUDGE IS NOT A STATE GOVERNMENT AFFAIR

In the present case therefore which principally involves the procedure for initiating and conducting disciplinary proceedings against a Chief Judge of a State where the National Judicial Council which had been given a role in the appointment and exercise of disciplinary control over judicial officers of the Appellant’s rank under the Constitution, it is not correct as argued by the Respondents that the entire matter in the case was a State Government affair.

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

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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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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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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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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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