The cry of the poor may not not always be just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is”.
I have just gone through a report under the headline, “Ex-CJN Onnoghen Advocates Adequate Funding Of Supreme Court” wherein (according to TheNigeriaLawyer reporting on 17 June 2022) an ex CJN, Hon Justice Walter Onnoghen (rtd) “warned that unless the Supreme Court is adequately funded, it may soon at best be a glorified High Court”.
While I agree that the Supreme Court should be adequately funded, it is my respectful view that the court has not justified past funding.
1. With the greatest respect, the Nigerian Supreme Court appears to be the slowest Supreme/apex Court in the entire world and leaders of the Court appear to be comfortable with the prevailing situation; hence, they are doing practically nothing to accelerate, improve justice delivery in the court. A case (an appeal filed by an ordinary Nigerian, a low profile Nigerian) could stay pending at the Supreme Court of Nigeria for up to 10 to 20 years. For instances, permit me to refer to pages 1-2 of my recent paper titled, “Role of the Bar and the Bench in Accelerating Justice Delivery In Nigeria: Lessons From Malaysia”.
A distinguished Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Akajiugo Emeka Obegolu, SAN, was reported to have posted the following statement on Facebook on 22 February 2022: “Today, 22/2/22, a 2005 appeal came up for hearing before the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Counsel informed the court that both the appellant and the respondent are deceased. #Justicedelayed”. From the post, it is obvious that the appeal at the Supreme Court of Nigeria had lasted 17 years, the appeal having commenced in 2005. Who knows when the case was filed at the High/Magistrates’ Court?. Meanwhile, when this author contacted Chief Obegolu, SAN, to confirm his authorship of the Facebook post and to get more facts about the case, Chief Obegolu advised that “the case was later adjourned to 2024 to enable the parties file applications for substitution”. A two-year adjournment to hear an interlocutory application! Earlier, on 5 February 2021, while delivering the lead judgment in a landlord-and-tenancy appeal case, Pillars (Nig) Ltd v. Desbordes, His Lordship, the Honourable Justice Emmanuel Akomaye Agim, J.S.C., had started with the following introduction: “This appeal was commenced on 24/6/2009 when the appellant herein filed a notice of appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal at Lagos delivered on 8/5/2009 in appeal No.CA/L/859/2006 affirming the judgment of the High Court of Lagos delivered on 8/12/2000 in LD/148/93 and dismissing the appeal against it. The notice of appeal contains 5 Grounds of appeal”. The suit number shows that the suit was filed in a Lagos High Court in the year 1993, appealed to the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, in 2006 and later to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2009. The suit lasted 13 years at the High Court, 3 years at the Court of Appeal and 12 years at the Nigerian Supreme Court. A total of 28 years! The cited examples fall among the rule, the norm, and not exceptional or isolated cases’.
2. The Nigerian Supreme Court appears to be the most oppressive Supreme Court in the world, the worst violator of human rights in Nigeria and the most partial institution in Nigeria.
Let me explain: the Nigerian Supreme Court has by its actions/conduct classified cases that come before it into (I) high profile cases and (II) low profile cases. For the high profile cases, the Supreme Court accords accelerated hearing for very quick dispensation. For the low-profile cases, the Supreme Court has (by conduct) decided that hearing must be delayed and justice dispensation kept unnecessarily and annoyingly slow, in some cases until all litigants have died off and their successors-in-title substituted for the deceased litigants who had hoped to get justice in their lifetime. Example, the Supreme Court recently announced that all cases (all appeals) filed at the Supreme Court after 2015 would not get any hearing dates until after 2027.
Again, instances abound in which the parties (litigants) in cases pending before the Supreme Court die while the cases are still pending and being perpetually adjourned by the supreme court. Yet, all so called high-profile cases filed at the supreme court receive instant hearing dates and accelerated determination and judgment, within one month or there abouts of filing/appeal.
If this is not partiality, what then is the correct definition of partiality? If this is not gross violation of human rights of low profile Nigerians to access to justice within a reasonable time, then what is it?.
Again, I refer to my earlier observation in a published commentary titled, “The Federal High Court (Federal Inland Revenue Service) Practice Directions, 2021 and Questions of (Dis)Respect for Rule of Law, Human Rights and Access to Justice” (see: Lawbreed.blog on 15 June 2021: Access to justice means being “treated fairly according to the law and if you are not treated fairly, being able to get appropriate redress…. It means access to ombudsmen, advice agencies and the police law.
It means public authorities behaving properly…. Access to justice [is] a human right that must be respected and could be enforced. According to International and European human rights law, EU Member States must guarantee everyone the right to go to court, or to an alternative dispute resolution body, and to obtain a remedy when their rights are violated. This is the right of access to justice…. Further on this, paragraphs 14 and 15 of the United Nations’ Declaration of the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law recognises that access to justice is a basic principle of the rule of law in the absence of which people are unable to have their voice heard, exercise their rights, challenge discrimination or hold decision-makers accountable.
The Declaration emphasises the right of equal access to justice for all, including members of vulnerable groups, and reaffirmed the commitment of Member States to taking all necessary steps to provide fair, transparent, effective, non-discriminatory and accountable services that promote access to justice for all.
Paragraph 13 of the Declaration stresses that delivery of justice should be impartial and non-discriminatory and highlighted the independence of the judicial system, together with its impartiality and integrity, as an essential prerequisite for upholding the rule of law and ensuring that there is no discrimination in the administration of justice… Nigeria is a member-State of the United Nations…
If we agree that Access to Justice is a basic human right, to be enjoyed by all (including the lowly placed), then we are entitled to query Nigerian Supreme Court’s different, partial, and unequal treatment of cases before the Court.
Why, for example, should High-Profile cases filed in the Supreme Court in 2022 be heard and determined in 2022 while the Supreme Court keeps insisting that earlier cases (unfairly classified as “Low-Profile Cases”) filed in the supreme court, say in 2016 – 2021, would not and must not be heard until after 2027? Is this not a form of oppression, human rights violation and denial of access to justice?
With due respect, I submit that the Nigerian Supreme Court is the worst violator of human rights in Nigeria, the worst perpetrator of injustice and the greatest promoter of partiality and segregation in justice delivery in Nigeria!
Unfortunately, Nigerian Supreme Court Leaders are always seen in the public domain preaching to other people (to members of lower courts) a gospel of accelerated justice dispensation. What an irony! As an example, see my paper: “Prolonged Justice Dispensation As The Bane Of Nigeria’s Judiciary: Leadership By Example As The Cure” (published by TheNigeriaLawyer on 11 August 2021) wherein I observed:
In my opinion, the Nigerian Supreme Court is the home of justice delay in Nigeria; other courts merely learn from it how to delay cases, grant long adjournments and prolong justice dispensation. …the best way to preach to other people… is to be a good example of what you want to see in others. You do not lead people by only what you say to them (it won’t work); you lead them by what they see you do.
True leaders are self-leaders. ..Leadership is an art expressed by the demonstration of characters worthy of imitations, emulation and inspiration. It is neither a title nor a position. The leader’s job is to show the way… you can not tell anything about the condition of the way if you have not travelled on it yourself!… Practise what you preach and let people learn from you. Be the light and source of inspiration that others see”.
While the current Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Hon Justice Justice Tanko Muhammad, has repeatedly expressed concern over what he called delay in Nigeria’s justice delivery system, one has not seen any concrete, practical efforts my Lord, the CJN (as the leader of the Judiciary) is making or has made anywhere (beyond mere words and promises) to pull the justice sector out of the doldrums. Yet, Stakeholders keep asking for increased funding for the Supreme Court.
Increased funding is good, but a question arises: How have ordinary Nigerians benefitted from past adequate funding of the Supreme Court? Or, you are just asking for increased funding while the Supreme Court continues to sit on and suppress the basic right of ordinary Nigerians to quick and accelerated access to justice? The maxim that “Justice delayed is justice denied” means that if legal redress or equitable relief is available for a party that has suffered some injury, but is not forthcoming in a timely fashion, it is effectively the same as having no redress at all.
Hence, those who argue that “delay of justice is injustice” are right. The long-term effect is made clearer by Martin Luther King Jnr:”Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”. Besides, as Howard Zinn put it, “The cry of the poor may not always be just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is”.
My conclusion is, with due respect, the Nigerian Supreme Court exists only for High Profile Nigerians and for High Profile Cases and not for all Nigerians; it is a Court of Only High Profile Cases for High Profile Nigerians.
This is why only high-profile cases, involving High Profile Nigerians, receive due and accelerated attention from the Supreme Court. In view of this unjustified and reasonably unjustifiable lopsidedness against Low-Profile Nigerians, I respectfully advocate that High Profile Nigerians should contribute money to increase funding for the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Nigeria is not a court of justice for all Nigerians.
Put differently, the Supreme Court of Nigeria is a Court of Justice for High-Profile Nigerians and a Court of Injustice to/for Low-Profile Nigerians. Accordingly, let those Nigerians for whose interest the Supreme Court works, be solely responsible for the court’s funding!
By: Sylvester Udemezue
Hoodlums Kill Police Inspector In Aba
A Police Inspector from Ndiegoro Police Station was killed on Tuesday by suspected IPOB/ESN members around Ohanku Road-Iheorji junction in Aba, Abia State.
Two of the attackers were however neutralised by the police in the ensuing gun duel.
Confirming the incident, the Abia Police Public Relations Officer, SP Geoffrey Ogbonna said the incident happened at about 12 : 30 pm on Tuesday.
Ogbonna said some policemen from Ndiegoro Police Station were on patrol around Iheorji when they came under attack by people suspected to be IPOB/ESN members.
“During a gun duel, one of the Policemen paid the supreme price while two of the gunmen were neutralised.
“As they shot the policeman they also collected his Police AK 47 riffle”, he said.
An eye witness told The Tide source in Aba that the Inspector was killed by one of the gang members when he went after the hoodlum as he was escaping.
The witness who gave his name only as Ahanna said that the incident happened about noon on Tuesday.
“We were in the market when we saw these boys, who were inside a tricycle with very powerful guns as they passed us.
“It was not long when they passed us that some policemen on patrol followed them.
“The Policemen engaged them and killed two of them while the others ran away and one ran into the back of a nearby building.
“The Inspector ran after the robber that ran to the back of a nearby building unknown to him that the other robber was waiting for him.
”The robber shot at the Inspector at close range and killed him on the spot”, he narrated.
Ogbonna said that the police were on the trail of the gunmen who escaped and urged residents to volunteer credible information that would help in their arrest.
Church In Court Over Conduct Of Elections, Exams On Saturdays
A member of Seventh Day Adventist Church has dragged the federal government before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, seeking an order to stop the conduct of the 2023 general election and examinations on Saturdays.
An elder of the church, Mr Ugochukwu Uchenwa, told the court that the election fixed for Saturday February 25 infringes on their freedom of worship. Accordingly, he prayed the court to declare the day unconstitutional or in the alternative should be allowed to vote or write examination on any day of the week.
Defendants in the suit are President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Minister of Internal Affairs, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Examinations, National Examination Council, West African Examination Council and National Business and Technical Examination Board.
When the matter came up Monday, Counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Benjamin Amaefule, told the court that all the defendants had been served with the court process except NECO.
According to him, he was at a loss as to why the defendants were not in court.
The judge therefore, adjourned the case to March 15, 2023 for hearing.
In the originating summon, the plaintiff is praying the court for a declaration that the schedule of elections in Nigeria by the respondents on Saturdays, the “Sabbath Day” is a violation of fundamental rights of freedom of (a) conscience, profession and free practice of faith and (b) Right to participate freely in the government of the applicant and that of entire members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Nigeria.
A declaration that the actions of the 5th to 8th respondents fixing examinations on Saturdays, a “Sabbath Day Of The Lord” is a violation of the fundamental rights of: (a) freedom of conscience, profession and free practice of Faith of the members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church Nigeria and right to freedom of education of the applicant and the members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church Nigeria.
An order of this Honourable Court restraining the 4th respondent from further violating the rights of members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church by holding elections on Saturdays or in the alternative order the 4th respondent to mark out a different day for the members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church Nigeria to participate in their own election if the 4th respondent cannot schedule and hold the elections on a day other than Saturdays.
By: Akujobi Samuel
Use Legionnaires To Turn The Security Architecture Of The Nation – Wenike-Briggs
The Gubernatorial candidate of the Young Progressive Party ( YPP) Engr, Danagogo Opurum Wenike-Briggs, has called on the Federal Government to use the Legionnaires to turn around the security network of the nation.
Wenike-Briggs spoke during the 2023 Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration in Port Harcourt over the weekend.
He said since security was everyone’s business, that the government at the center should make fresh laws and rules that will capture the welfare of Legionnaires in a new and special dimension.
According to him, the Armed Forces have done wonderfully well in the areas of security of lives and property and should be given better and adequate attention at various levels.
The YPP Guber candidate, who doubles as a Deacon in the Salvation Ministries, said no single individual can manage security effectively due to its complexity and added that he will have a permanent advisory council that will oversee the welfare of Legionnaires in the state.
He also informed that there will be more plans to encourage the enrollment of Rivers people into the Armed Forces to enable the state have more military personnel.
States like Plateau and Benue, he pointed out, are what they are in history due to the intimidating number of military personnel in their areas.
Such he said, is achievable, if all hands will be on deck irrespective of party or tribal affiliations.
“I think security should be considered top in the agenda of every government. People must feel safe before considering empowerment and other welfare packages. That is why we must think more on having military personnel in our state”, he said.
He also called on the youth to think less of crime and use their youthful energy and push for something useful that will bring pride to their respective families and the state.
About the N100 million donations by the Rivers State Goverment to the Legionnaires, he said it was key and should act as a wakeup call to the donees.
Meanwhile , he has called on the Armed Forces to resist any pressure to get them involved in partisan politics as such may be against the law that established them.
By: King Onunwor
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