NJC Investigates Judges Giving Conflicting Judgments

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Mahmud Mohammed

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The National Judicial Council investigates judges who gave conflicting judgements in Nigeria

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Sep 26, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE era of different courts of competent jurisdiction issuing conflicting orders on same issue may soon be a thing of the past in Nigeria. This is because the National Judicial Council, NJC has started investigating such cases which happened in recently. Justice Mahmud Mohammed, chief justice of Nigeria, CJN, said the NJC is already investigating judges delivering conflicting judgments on same issues.

The CJN, while delivering address at the special session of the Supreme Court to mark the commencement of the 2016/2017 legal year and swearing-in of new Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, said the council had received petitions against some judges who delivered conflicting judgments and that it was investigating the petitions.

The CJN said, at the end of the investigation, appropriate actions would be taken against any judge found culpable. There have been a couple of conflicting judgments in recent times, both at the level of the Court of Appeal and the Federal High Court. The most recent is the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, suits on its national convention, emanating from both Abuja and Port Harcourt divisions of the Federal High Court.

Mohammed also expressed dismay over the growing trend of disregard for laid down precedents in decisions from various levels of courts, especially at the appellate court. He stated that every court in Nigeria is bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court and should not grant a different outcome from those expressly laid down by the Supreme Court.

As part of the investigation, the NJC had already written to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, asking it forward to the council conflicting judgments delivered by judges against the commission. The INEC, on its part, had complained that its work was being hampered by conflicting judgments. The commission cited an instance where a court ordered the commission to exclude the PDP only for another court with concurrent jurisdiction to order that the party to be included.

The CJN said, “Several conflicting decisions were recklessly dished out by the Court of Appeal last year in appeals arising from various decisions of the Election Petitions Tribunals, given on election petitions filed by parties who lost in the general election conducted in April 2015. Such decisions were made as a result of flagrant refusal of the panels of the Court of Appeal involved, to be bound not only by its own decisions but also by the decision of this court.”

On the delay in the justice system, the CJN heaped part of the blame on lawyers who exploit loopholes in the law to pervert the cause of justice. “While we all rush to rehash the age-old rhetoric that justice delayed is justice denied, the actions of our key stakeholders, particularly members of the bar, have often proven to be far from words.

“Sadly, certain members of the bar are conspicuous in utilising unethical, frivolous applications and appeals, multiplicity of actions in courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction and other act of calumny to frustrate the speedy dispensation of justice. The Supreme Court takes a dim view of such delays and we will constantly introduce measures to reduce delay in the administration of justice as the past year’s statistics will doubtless testify.”

The CJN also warned lawyers to cease writing petitions against judicial officers directly to President Muhammadu Buhari and directed judges to deal with any lawyer that maligned them. He advised lawyers to address their petition to the NJC and promised that the council would act on it without delay. Mohammed, who is proceeding on retirement in November charged the new SANs to imbibe the highest tenets of integrity and humility befitting their status.

In his speech, Abubakar Malami, attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, expressed concern over conflicting judgments from various courts in the country.
Malami, who was represented by Taiwo Abidogun, solicitor general of the federation, called on the leadership of the judiciary to move fast to prevent the continuation of such occurrence.

He also charged the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee to come up with a policy that would also ensure that those who were admitted into the inner bar were qualified both in practice and character. He advised the new SANs to remain shining lights in the practice of law.

Abubakar Mahmud, president, Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, in his address, said:  “On our part, we shall continue to be strong advocates of the greater independence of the judiciary. But that means we will fight even those within who seek to undermine its reputation.

“Getting out of our present situation demands concerted efforts of all citizens and all institutions. The expectation of the legal profession is enormous. We must demonstrate patriotism and leadership as well as knowledge and skills. We must work to enhance confidence in the legal system, promote the rule of law, guarantee protection of citizens as well as promote the sanctity of contractual obligations thereby improving the business environment.”

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