November 26, (THEWILL) – Recent judgments of the law courts in the country have put the judiciary on the spot. Some controversial decisions by some of our revered judges, especially in cases relating to election petitions and appeals, have kept tongues wagging. As the final arbiter of the law, the judges are continuously placed under constant searchlight as the people look up to them for justice.
It is, however, unfortunate that claims of ”clerical errors” in some of the judgments which made their interpretation more confusing have not helped the judiciary in any way.
The confusion created by the so-called errors only helps as much in casting a doubt over such judgments, more so, as each party to the case interpretes it in manners that suit their interests. A case in point is the recent judgment of the Appeal Court on Kano Governorship Election.
Delivering its judgement on Friday, November 17, 2023, the appellate court virtually declared the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Dr Nasiru Gawuna, duly elected in the March 18 governorship poll held in the state, “because the appeal (of Gov. Abba Kabir Yusuf) lacks merit.”
However, in a stamped and signed Certified True Copy, CTC, of the majority judgement delivered by Justice Moore Abraham Adumein and released to the litigants’ counsel on Tuesday November 20, the court gave judgement to the incumbent governor, Yusuf, saying “the judgement of the tribunal in the petition No: EPT/KN/GOV 01/2023 between: ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC) v INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION &2 ORS, delivered on the 20th of September is hereby set aside,” and awarded N1,000,000.00 as cost against Gawuna.
To describe the confusion created by the statement as very embarrassing is just an understatement as it casts a lot of doubt on the calibre and integrity of the judges involved. It is quite unimaginable that a judgment would dismiss an appeal and still award cost against the person which the judgment supposedly favours. What a contradiction! Unfortunately, that is the situation in which we have found ourselves and it is a very sad development, no matter the claims of “clerical errors” being bandied around in defense.
The fact remains that the public confidence in the judiciary is fast diminishing and our judges in Nigeria are not in any way helping the matter. This development is really bad for our democracy. It is sad to note that the recent blunder in the Kano Governorship Appeal judgment, which has been described as “scandalous and an extremely embarrassing report,” indeed runs contrary to the mantra that says that justice must be rooted in public confidence.
Actions like the case in Kano, which also described supporters of a particular party as “red cap bandits” and a related one at the Osun Governorship Tribunal which asked Governor Ademola Adeleke to go and dance “lololo,” are simply part of the mockery and embarrassment that some of our courts have become. It is becoming clear that the political class is deliberately moving to capture the judiciary, a development that comes with “very insidious consequences” for the rule of law as ”it is deliberate and intentional.”
There is no doubt that the political nature of post-election tribunals has exposed many judges to the corrupt influence of desperate politicians, though with exceptions.
THEWILL recalls that in 2020, an Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) report noted that the judiciary led the Nigerian Corruption Index between 2018 and 2020, with huge bribes paid to judges by lawyers handling high electoral and other political cases. Sadly, there seems to be no progress in changing the inglorious and embarrassing trend.
Most judgments now embarrassingly and ridiculously point in a similar direction to favour the government in power and help in making the country drift towards a one-party state. We dare to say that this is not too good for our democracy as opposition voices will be subdued.
The law courts, rather than the election process, now seem to have taken over the role of determining who occupies elective positions as election results are being reversed at will by the courts through controversial and sometimes embarrassing and ridiculous judgments.
We therefore call on the judiciary to sit up and save itself from ridiculously shameful and embarrassing judgments that are being churned out by some judges. We also join other Nigerians clamouring for litigation on election matters to follow immediately after the conduct of polls and before the winners are sworn into office.
We as well implore the National Judicial Council to be more intentional on training for the judges and proper funding as well as digitisation of offices to ensure that manual recording and writing of reports, which creates room for errors, are eliminated from the system.
It should also take a more proactive stand on discipline of erring judges to put a brake on all the blunders and embarrassment to the judiciary.