| By Anayo Ezugwu |
THE judiciary in Nigeria witnessed a lot of controversial issues in 2014. The year started with the crisis which bedeviled the Rivers States judicial system. The judiciary in the state has been under siege since the appointment of the chief judge of the state by the National Judicial Council, NJC, which has been fighting with the Rivers State Judicial Service Commission.
The NJC had at its 67th Meeting which was held on May 27, 2014, deliberated on the state of affairs in the Rivers State Judiciary and noted with concern non-appointment of a Substantive Chief Judge or Acting Chief Judge for Rivers State and its attendant consequences on the general administration of justice, particularly vis-à-vis assignment of cases and other related administrative duties in both the High Court of Justice and Customary Court of Appeal of Rivers State. Consequently, in the exercise of its constitutional powers, the council decided that the most senior Judge in the High Court of Justice of Rivers State Judiciary should perform the functions of assigning Cases to all the Judges of the Court and also carry out other related administrative duties.
It also decided that the most senior Judge in the Customary Court of Appeal of Rivers State Judiciary should perform the functions of assigning cases and also carry out other related administrative duties.
But the Rivers State government through the office of its attorney general and commissioner for justice said the directive of the NJC was unconstitutional and unknown to the constitution adding that the NJC does not have powers under the law to manage a state judiciary. It said the issue of the appointment of a Chief Judge is a constitutional matter. What the NJC did is not known to law and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The right as to who should appoint an acting Chief Judge or Chief Judge in a state is vested in the governor. Even the President of the country can’t usurp the powers of the governor. It is sad that a body as the NJC that is the custodian of the law is doing this. The crisis is still lingering.
Apart from the crisis in Rivers State, the judiciary was heavily violated in Ekiti State as political thugs invaded the state High Court premises, beat up a High Court judge and tore his clothes on September 22. This ungodly act prompted Justice A. S. Daramola, chief Judge of the state, to order the immediate closure of all courts in Ekiti State until adequate security has been put in place.
The assault was said to have taken place at the hearing of an application filed by Ekiti State chapter of All Progressives Congress, APC, who were seeking to nullify the 2014 governorship election that produced Ayo Fayose as the governor of the state. Obafemi Fasanmi, chief registrar of the court, who narrated what transpired in the court, said even in the court room of the chief judge was not spared in the orgy of assault and destruction by the thugs.
On Thursday, September 25, another set of political thugs came in their hundreds and invaded the High court premises in Ado-Ekiti and in the process assaulted Hon Justice J. O. Adeyeye of the High Court No 3 in Ado-Ekiti, beating him up and tearing his suit into shreds while the police officers on guard looked unconcerned and uninterested as judges, magistrates and other members of staff had to run for their dear lives. The courts’ properties were either damaged or completely destroyed. The court room of the Hon Chief Judge was not spared in the orgy of assault and destruction as members of staff attached to his office were beaten up and his court record book torn into pieces by these political thugs who also invaded and disrupted proceedings at the Election Petition Tribunal within the High Court premises in Ado-Ekiti.
Okey Wali, former president of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, was abducted in his home town in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. According to Augustine Alegeh, president of NBA, Wali was kidnapped by unknown persons on Saturday, October 11, at about 9 p.m.
Justice Mariam Aloma-Mukhtar, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, retired from active service after reaching clocked the mandatory 70 years. Her retirement made the federal government to appoint Mahmud Mohammed as the new CJN. There were also some landmark judgements in the country like the removal of Murtala Nyako, former Adamawa State governor, over corruption charges and stopping of the publication of Olusegun Obasanjo’s autobiography. But the former president has gone to court to challenge the ruling.
— Jan. 5, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT