A rustic undermines the judiciary at its peril (1)


The ‘judiciary’ wants no definition. Nor does “democracy”. The previous, nevertheless, deserves some elaboration, even when briefly. The judiciary is constitutionally acknowledged in Nigeria as one of many three arms of presidency, together with the chief and the legislature (See sections 4, 5 and 6 of the 1999 Structure). It’s corollary to the doctrine of separation of powers ably propounded in 1748 by Baron de Montesquieu, a famend French thinker. Like the opposite two arms, a complete sub-division of the 1999 Structure, Chapter VII, is dedicated to what it refers to as “The Judicature”. In its 66-odd sections (230 – 296), our grundnorm outlines the construction of the courtroom system in Nigeria, the mechanism for recruiting personnel, their self-discipline, promotion and elimination.

These provisions are complemented by these of Part 6 of the Structure, which units out the powers of the courts of the federation, from the best (the Supreme Courtroom) right down to the bottom courts, as could also be approved by regulation to train jurisdiction at first occasion, or on enchantment, by both the Nationwide or State Homes of Meeting.

These powers are, nevertheless, not absolute, as they’re certified by the exclusion of sure issues within the self-same Structure, together with the Elementary Goals and Directive Ideas of State Coverage in Chapter II thereof; and the competence of any particular person to make any present regulation after the fifteenth day of January, 1966.

Topic to those restrictions, the jurisdiction of Nigerian courts is barely circumscribed and delimited both by the regulation which establishes them or by the Structure itself. In different phrases, the judiciary because the third arm of presidency is itself a creation of the Structure.

Which means of “judicial independence”

This notion of constitutional or judicial independence is just not completely free from ambiguity, by way of its content material and scope.

Nonetheless, its exact which means is essential to any dialogue of the implications of undermining the judiciary. It is because, to speak about eroding judicial independence is solely one other method of expressing the phenomenon of undermining the judiciary: they imply the identical factor. Earlier than delving additional into the problem, nevertheless, it is very important cope with the meanings of the phrases “consequence” and “undermine” used within the title of this piece.

Why courtroom orders have to be obeyed

The overall precept of regulation is that every one courtroom orders and judgements have to be obeyed by one and all, together with individuals, authorities and governments (see Part 287 of 1999 Structure of Federal Republic of Nigeria, as altered). That is however the opinion of events. See the instances of Rossek vs. ACB (1993) 8 NWLR (Pt 312) 382; Barrister Orkev Jev vs. Sekav D. Iyortyom (2014) LPELR – 23000; Odogwu vs. Odogwu (1992) 2 NWLR (Pt 225) 5239. For instance, there may be proof that no fewer than 120 courtroom orders made by numerous courts of regulation throughout Nigeria towards the Federal Authorities are but to be complied with by the federal government until date, thus rendering the judiciary toothless and ineffective. To make sure, disobedience to courtroom orders constitutes a direct affront and disrespect to the authority and dignity of the courtroom, which render it prostrate and grotesque.

Disobedience to courtroom orders invariably results in a descent to anarchy, lawlessness, violence and a recourse to brute self-help, viet armis. Disobedience additionally results in insecurity within the judiciary by one and all. The consequential unfavorable import on international direct funding may be higher imagined. Disobedience additionally causes absence of the rule of regulation, which in flip undermines a rustic’s integrity and respect amongst nations. It’s, due to this fact, crucial to insist that the judiciary have to be fully unbiased to beat back assaults and interference, whether or not obtuse or overt, by the opposite two arms (the chief and the legislature) of presidency, as failure to take action adversely impacts its capability and capability to discharge its onerous constitutional mandate in a way that’s simply and truthful amongst residents.

Which means of ‘consequence ’

This implies “a results of a specific motion or scenario, usually one that’s unhealthy or not handy”; “The impact, consequence or consequence of one thing occurring earlier”; “One thing produced by a trigger or essentially following from a set of circumstances”; “The results of one thing or the outcomes or results of it”; “One thing that occurs on account of a specific motion or set of circumstances.”

Which means of ‘undermine’

What does it imply to undermine the judiciary? In line with numerous dictionary definitions, ‘undermine’ means: “To make somebody much less assured, much less highly effective or much less more likely to succeed, or to make one thing weaker, usually step by step.”

“To step by step weaken or destroy one thing”; “Should you undermine one thing corresponding to a sense or a system, you make it much less robust or much less safe than it was earlier than, usually by a gradual course of or by repeated efforts”; “To subvert or weaken insidiously or secretly”; “To weaken or spoil by levels”; “To step by step make somebody or one thing much less robust or efficient”; “Reduce the effectiveness, energy of capability of, particularly step by step or insidiously.”

The foregoing definitions will information this intervention – and, hopefully- make it simpler to articulate and comprehend. We will start by analyzing the idea of ‘judicial independence’.

What does ‘judicial independence’ imply?

In line with Professor David S. Regulation, judicial independence refers to “the flexibility of courts and judges to carry out their duties freed from affect or management by different actors, whether or not governmental or non-public”. The significance of this perfect can’t be over-emphasized as a result of, as Alexander Hamilton famously opined in his Federalist Paper No. 78, the judiciary is the weakest and “least harmful” of the three branches of presidency, as a result of, in his opinion, it has “no affect over both the sword or the purse”. Thus, in phrases of Professor Regulation, the judiciary is “least able to defending itself towards the opposite branches (who) possess (not solely) the ability to disobey or thwart the enforcement of judicial selections, (however) additionally to retaliate towards the courts for selections that they oppose.”

Some conceptual points

As may be seen from the above, judicial independence and undermining it are two sides of the identical coin. They’re NOT antithetical to one another. They’re mutually unique or incompatible. The place a judiciary is deemed to be ‘unbiased’, it signifies that it is freed from components that are inclined to undermine its integrity and capability to play its assigned position and carry out its features below the Structure, which is solely to dispense justice to all method of individuals with out concern or favour, affection or ailing will, no matter whose ox is gored.

This define of judicial independence neatly sums up what Professor Regulation conceives because the questions which can be central to a complete and cohesive definition of the topic, particularly:

i. Independence for whom?

ii. Independence from whom?

iii. Independence from what; and

iv. Independence for what function?

Whereas recognizing the impracticability or unfeasibility of attaining complete independence from different arms, within the phrases of Professor Regulation, a wonderfully unbiased judiciary that’s fully insulated from all types of political and fashionable affect is what we need. A great start line due to this fact is a associated problem – that of ‘judicial immunity’.

What’s ‘judicial immunity’?

A manifestation of the notion of ‘judicial independence’ is ‘judicial immunity’. This attribute is important and indispensable as a way to allow judges do their work fearlessly with out let or hindrance. It merely signifies that they can’t be personally sued or held answerable for finishing up their judicial duties in respect of any selections, verdicts, orders or pronouncements made by them whereas performing their judicial features. See Onagoruwa vs. I.G.P., the place the Courtroom of Enchantment opined that:

“The immunity of judges for any acts completed or phrases spoken of their judicial capability in a Courtroom of Regulation is just not conferred for the safety or good thing about the judges however for the advantage of the general public, which curiosity it’s that the judges needs to be at liberty to train their features with independence and with out concern of penalties”.

In one other incisive dictum of the Courtroom of Enchantment in Emecheta vs. Ogueri, the intermediate courtroom expressed the view that:

“The phrases, which he speaks, are protected by an absolute privilege. The orders, which he offers, and the sentences, which he imposes, can’t be made the topic of civil proceedings towards him. Irrespective of that the decide was below some gross error or ignorance, or was actuated by envy, hatred and malice, and all uncharitableness, he’s not liable to an motion. The treatment of celebration aggrieved is to enchantment or to take some such step to reverse his ruling, after all, if the decide has accepted bribes or been within the least diploma corrupt, or has perverted the course of justice. He may be punished within the felony courts. That aside, nevertheless, a decide is just not liable to an motion for damages. The rationale for this immunity is based on public coverage. The reason being not as a result of the decide has any privilege to make mistake or to do fallacious. It’s so that he ought to have the ability to do his obligation with full independence and from concern. On this nation, the necessity to defend judges from wanton assault can’t be overstated”.

In Nigeria, expertise has proven that judicial immunity has at all times been extra in danger below civil democratic, rule than it’s reverse, navy dictatorship. That is ironical, as a result of the acquired knowledge and expectation is that the reverse should be the case; thus  justifying the dictum of Hon. Justice Katsina-Alu, JCA (as he then was) in EMECHETA vs. OGUERI, supra, of “the necessity to defend judges from wanton assault”. Whereas this phenomenon is at all times regrettable in a democracy, it’s not altogether shocking. It is because, of their notorious desperation, which has change into the hallmark of Nigerian politicians and their supporters, they usually brook no opposition and won’t enable something (together with the regulation) to get of their method. Propriety, morality, ethics, decorum, fundamental decency, authorized or constitutional norms should not objects of their warped minds and blind quest for energy – by all means – truthful or foul.

Politicians indulge within the Machiavelian precept of the top justifying the means. These assaults on the judiciary have assumed direct – and, generally – terrifying and horrific dimensions, usually traumatizing judges and their households. Just a few situations might be cited anon for example the purpose.

(To be continued)

Sounds and bites

“Earlier than you assume, be taught the details; earlier than you decide, perceive; earlier than you harm somebody, really feel; earlier than you communicate, assume.”

– Nameless


Thought for the week


“We are below a Structure, however the Structure is what the Judges say it’s, and the judiciary is the safeguard of our property and our liberty and our property below the Structure.”

         (Charles Evans Hughes)

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