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PROCESS FOR REMOVAL OF A CHIEF JUDGE BY A STATE GOVERNOR

Dictum

It is not difficult to see that for the effective exercise of the powers of removal of a Chief Judge of a State by the Governor and House of Assembly, the first port of call by the Governor on his journey to remove a Chief Judge of the State shall be the National Judicial Council which is equipped with the personnel and resources to investigate the inability of the Chief Judge to discharge the functions of his office the subject of disciplinary action of removal through the Committees of the Council and where the infirmity of the mind or body is involved the services of a medical board to examine and submit appropriate report on the Chief Judge to be affected could also avail the Council in the process of investigation.

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

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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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A JUDGE SHOULD BE SOBER

It has always been my considered view that sobriety should be the first watch-word for anyone who, per chance, finds himself in the exalted position of a judge. A judicial officer should not be talkative or loquacious. Indeed, he should not be boisterous. He should be polite to witnesses and lawyers who appear before him. Above all, a judge should not be biased under any guise. It needs no further gain-saying that Auta J. should watch his steps in the discharge of his judicial functions. My Learned brother has said it all. I also allow the appeal and abide by all consequential orders including that relating to costs in the lead judgment.

— John Afolabi Fabiyi, JSC. Nnamdi Eriobuna & Ors. V. Ikechukwu Obiorah (CA/E/77/99, 24 May 1999)

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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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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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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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