The array of conflicting court judgements currently being given by judges across the country, particularly the recent between two federal high court judges in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and Abuja, the nation’s capital, over the PDP crises, is not a new omen befuddling the nation’s judiciary. It is legendary and becoming a commonplace identity, even though embarrassing and not in the interest of a proper justice administration system expected in democratic setting like Nigeria.
Yet, before the present PDP crisis which again has opened this judiciary scam, contradictory court rulings reared their ugly heads ludicrously in most pronouncements made by Appeal Court justices at the height of result declarations shortly after the 2015 general elections, no wonder the lower courts are also enmeshed in the trending sordid show of the absurd while giving fillip to the popular saying, ‘’Like father, like son.”
It is well known how Appeal Court judges gave inconsistent rulings over election petitions for which the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed once raised the alarm in the same manner he has done in the current show of shame and supremacy displayed by two federal high court judges in Port Harcourt and Abuja over the PDP crises. He expressed concern over the over-bearing attitude which bore on inconsistent rulings and impacts, nevertheless negatively, not only on the sanctity and sacredness of justice administration in the country and the judiciary as the hope of the common, but as well as the temple of justice. To buttress aghast against the new trend, the CJN had while addressing justices of the Court of Appeal in Abuja at the Annual Conference of the Court of Appeal held in Abuja early in the year, warned that, “As the guardians of the law, we must not only be just but also convey certainty in our justness.”
Alluding to a somewhat endless list of complaints over conflicting decisions of Appeal Courts justices in electoral matters in similar cases and refusing to follow the precedents laid down by the Supreme Court, the CJN further noted: “My Lords, it bears reminding that the overriding objective of every legal system in the world is to do justice. However, this cannot be achieved where there is confusion as to the state of the law as pronounced by the court.”
He told the justices that they were not allowed to continue to shift the goalposts when the game was on.
Continuing, he said “as your lordships will agree, where an aggrieved person perceives, whether rightly or wrongly, that they will not receive justice, such a situation can indeed bode ill for the community in which he lives and can lead to acrimony and anarchy: We must not ignore the negative perception that is occasioned by conflicting judgments delivered at various divisions of the Court of Appeal. Such judicial contradictions only result in untold hardships to litigants in their quest for justice. They further cast your lordships in an unfavorable light and leave the judiciary at the mercy of innuendos, crass publications and editorials.”
And to put an end to a situation where a division of the Court of Appeal delivers a judgement that contradicts the one delivered by another division, the CJN warned them to “have an internal law report for Justices to access either electronically or in print in order to reduce the avenue for conflict in its jurisprudence, however ”recommending to them the advice of late Justice Niki Tobi of the Suprme court which states that: “immediately a decision is given in one division, it should be sent to the other division without delay.”
However embarrassing and quite regretful past and present actions of judges has turned, it appears that the relevant authority/authorities that regulate the conduct of judges and judicial officers in the temple of justice are asleep, notwithstanding that time and again, Justice Mohammed has made efforts to call his junior colleagues to order but all in vain.
Undoubtedly, no one argues that the judiciary is presently perceived as unserious and a threat to Nigeria’s evolving democracy. This is not an understatement, with the questionable actions of some judges that are also grinding that arm of government to an unacceptable high hydra judicial monster. According to experts’ views, democracy in Nigeria is in danger with the kind of judgements, especially the conflicting ones arising from election cases and now the leadership crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that holds the judiciary up as an article of mockery
Experts have also frowned and indeed drummed into the hearing of judges that never again should a court of co-ordinate jurisdiction give conflicting orders, especially when a judge who is aware that his brother judge has given an order in a matter still entertains the same matter and even go to the extent of giving orders; because if that is done, it is calling for anarchy.
Conversely, we see that time is of essence for the National Judicial Council headed by the CJN to immediately intervene and save the situation, lest the judiciary is rubbished by the political elite in connivance with lawyers. Going forward, we join in the call that all cases involving the PDP be consolidated and assigned to one judge as well as create special constitutional courts that will solely handle such highly political matters
Again, we urge the NJC to begin a probe on the activities of such judges who have erred in their judicial duties, especially as it borders on making conflicting pronouncements on election cases and now on the PDP crisis. It is when this is done and sanctions served and made public on the judges who erred that Nigerians can again begin to have confidence in the judiciary, and the time for the NJC to bark is now.