The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olukayode Ariwoola, on Monday, said public opinions and sentiments could not displace the law of the country, urging judges to be impartial in discharging their duties.
His position was backed by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) as it condemned the attacks on the judiciary in recent times.
Ariwoola, who spoke at the special court session to mark a new legal year and swearing-in of new Senior Advocates of Nigeria in Abuja on Monday, also said most cases should end at the Court of Appeal.
He insisted that the appellate court was competent, and well-equipped to adjudicate effectively on most matters.
He urged Nigerians not to take every dispute to court, stressing that not all appeals should be brought to the apex court for adjudication.
He said, “Even as we celebrate the successes recorded in the past legal year in the disposal of cases, I would like to admonish all Nigerians on the imperative of being less litigious and be more disposed to alternative dispute resolutions to free the courts of this unnecessary over-stretching of both human and material resources. I have made it clear on different occasions that it is not every dispute that must find its way to the court, and it is not every matter that must come up to the Supreme Court on appeal.
“Our laws have to be amended to make most appeals to end at the Court of Appeal, which is competent, dexterous, and well-equipped with the right materials and manpower to adjudicate effectively and resourcefully. In every dispute, only one party must win; and winning could come after intense legal fireworks that are transparent and based solely on subsisting laws of the land. We cannot import foreign laws to try our cases here, as some litigants would erroneously and desperately want us to do in the quest to get victory.”
Ariwoola also urged judicial officials not to be intimidated by the actions of mobs or crowds, adding that cases should not be determined by sentiments.
He said, “The law remains the law, no matter whose interest is involved. In all we do, as interpreters of the law, we should endeavour to sever the strings of emotion from logic and assumption from fact. We should never be overwhelmed by the actions or loud voices of the mob or crowd and now begin to confuse law with sentiment or something else in deciding our cases.
“Nevertheless, unnecessary and unwarranted utterances are bound to embarrass not only others, but the judge himself; thus what should be asked, should be asked, and what should not be asked, should be avoided. I admonish our judges to, as usual, receive what is tendered in court and eschew what is against the law and facts after thorough analysis and assimilation both in and out of court, which exercise is, of course, part of judgeship.”
The CJN also called for statutory protection for judiciary independence at the federal and state levels.
He said, “We expected the independence of the judiciary to be given adequate statutory protection, not just at the federal level alone but equally at the state level so that they could be seen to be truly and genuinely independent in all ramifications. The rule of law, with all its well-understood facets, has been highly questionable since the advent of democratic governance in 1999.”
Ariwoola, however, called on the judges not to be partial while discharging their duties, describing impartiality as the hallmark of a judge.
He said, “Therefore, it is our solemn responsibility to keep the river clean at all times. Needless to say, impartiality is the hallmark of a Judge. So, I admonish all of us to always be impartial in all our judgments. I am saying all these now because I will never have this great privilege and opportunity to address the galaxies of legal luminaries, judicial icons, and distinguished personalities in the justice sector of our dear nation in another legal year of the Supreme Court as Chief Justice of Nigeria in my entire lifetime again.”
Ariwoola urged judicial officers to be honest while discharging their duties, stressing that his expectation was for “every judicial officer to work very hard and also be very honest and courteous to the litigants, witnesses, and members of the bar, and discharge all your judicial functions with all the humility at your command.”
He stated that while doing this, it was still necessary for judicial officers to have at the back of their minds that public opinions, sentiments, or emotions could never take the place of the law in deciding cases.
Ariwoola said the apex court received 1,271 motions and appeals between September 2022 and July 2023.
According to him, the apex court heard 388 political appeals, 215 criminal appeals, and 464 civil appeals.
He said, “The matters filed at the Supreme Court from September 12, 2022, to July 11, 2023, are 1,271, comprising motions and appeals. Out of these, we heard 388 political appeals, 215 criminal appeals, and 464 civil appeals. Similarly, the court considered a total number of 49 criminal motions, 153 civil motions, and two political motions.
Between September 30, 2022, and July 11, 2023, the Supreme Court delivered a total number of 251 judgments. Out of these, 125 were political appeals, 81 were civil appeals and 45 were criminal appeals. Within the period under review (precisely 10 months’ duration), a total number of 91 Rulings were delivered by the Honourable Court”.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, called for a reduction to the number of appeals that get to the apex court.
He said, “We must begin to develop innovative solutions towards enhancing the working capacity of the Supreme Court, cutting down on the number of appeals that get to this Honourable Court, implementing critical judicial reforms, as well as adopting alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.”
Advising the SANs, Fagbemi warned that unlike before if the rank is withdrawn, it would not be restored.
He said, “One of the highlights of the new guidelines is that, unlike the 2018 guidelines which contain provisions for discipline of erring holders of the rank and for the restoration of the rank after three years of withdrawal upon the fulfillment of certain conditions, the 2022 Guidelines makes no provision for the restoration of the rank after withdrawal.
“In other words, once the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee under the provisions of Paragraph 26(4) of the Guidelines withdraws the rank from any holder who may have breached the provisions in sub-paragraph (a)-(h), the withdrawal is final and the rank cannot be restored afterward. “
He also warned lawyers against analysing cases before the courts in the media.
Fagbemi said, “It is unprofessional for a legal practitioner nor a Senior Advocate of Nigeria to be seen engaging in the analysis of cases pending before the court. It is fast becoming a sad norm and regrettably so, for legal practitioners to appear on television or radio stations discussing pending matters. We have also seen lawyers after court sitting discussing what transpired in the proceedings. You must resist the urge to engage in such practice. You must also reject the temptation by media houses inviting you to analyse or discuss pending matters.”
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN condemned the attacks on the judiciary in recent times.
According to him, 90 per cent of the attacks were from election-related matters.
He said, “There has never been a time in our history that the judiciary came under attack like this time, and my lords will agree with me that more than 90 per cent of these attacks stem from election-related matters, which in so many ways have affected the other matters being handled by the courts. The question is, why do we have the preponderance of these accusations arising from electoral matters? – in cases dealing with politicians and political interests.”
The NBA president noted that the allegations by politicians had impacted the public perception of the judicial system.
He said, “The accusations and name-calling have, however, in recent times acquired a dimension that calls for grave concern and action. Whether we like it or not, it is these accusations, unfounded as they may be or can be, arising from these political matters, that have largely shaped the public perception of the judiciary in Nigeria. Have we, members of the Bench and Bar, who are privileged to be the ones to guide the public in regard the matters of justice, contributed in any way to fuelling this negative public perception? “
He, however, urged judges to be above board and ensure justice was seen to be served in every matter.
He said, “It is in this wise that your lordships must not only serve justice but must ensure that justice is seen to have been served. As a matter of fact, beyond these, your lordships are under an additional duty to persuade or convince the public for whom justice is served, that indeed, justice has been served in any given situation. This duty, my lords, cannot be discharged by either the executive or the legislature. It is the exclusive preserve of the judiciary”.
Fubara Promises To Maximise Youth Potentials In Rivers
Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has affirmed his administration’s focus in prioritising policies that will maximise the potentials of the youths in the State.
Fubara made this declaration yesterday at the State NYSC permanent orientation camp, Nonwa-Gbam Tai, in Tai Local Government Area during the swearing-in ceremony of 2024 Batch A Stream 1 corps members deployed to Rivers State.
This was contained in a statement by the Head of Press Unit, Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Juliana Masi, yesterday.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Special Services Bureau, Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Sir Samson Friday Dede, the governor commended the NYSC Scheme for the positive impacts it is making in the nation’s quest for sustained development.
“My administration will be unwavering and fully focused in supporting the youths in maximizing their potentials”, he said.
He assured the corps members of his administration’s commitment in supporting them to achieve the mandate of uniting and integrating to the nation.
The governor further admonished corps members to take full advantage of the camp programmes and activities to equip themselves to contribute to nation building.
Earlier, Coordinator, NYSC, Rivers State, Mr. George Mfongang, had urged the corps members to be in the forefront of the nation’s development by being hard working, disciplined and morally sound.
He commended them for being passionate and enthusiastic in imbibing the lessons of the orientation exercise.
The Coordinator thanked Governor Fubara for his unflinching commitment in ensuring the security and welfare of corps members in the State especially, the payment of State allowance to them.
A total of 1,585 Corps members made up of 819 males and 766 females took the oath of allegiance at the ceremony that was administered by Justice Ibiwengi Roseline Minakiri.
FG, Cement Manufacturers Agree On N7,000, N8,000 For 50kg Per Bag
The Federal Government and cement manufacturers have agreed on a N7,000 to N8,000 per 50 kg bag price of cement to halt the astronomical rise in the price of the product.
This agreement was part of a deal struck after several hours of meeting held behind closed doors at the headquarters of the Ministry of Works, between the Federal Government and cement manufacturers , in Abuja, yesterday.
The manufacturers agreed to sell a 50kg bag of cement at a retail price between N7,000 and N8,000, depending on location nationwide.
They, however put a caveat that the price drop from the current market price would largely depend on government fulfilling its promised interventions in certain areas of concern to ameliorate critical challenges faced in the industry.
Retail price for cement jumped from N5,000 to N10,000 within one week in the open market, after wholesalers, citing increasing cost of transportation and other variables, made adjustments to the price they sell to retailers.
Retailers in turn transferred the additional cost burden to consumers to stay afloat.
This prompted President Bola Tinubu to order the Ministers of Works, David Umahi and his Trade and Investment counterpart, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite. to meet with cement manufacturers to find a solution to the crisis.
Umahi had, while calling for the meeting, expressed the Federal Government’s concern over the development, adding that if the situation wasn’t brought under control, it had the potential of hurting the prosperity agenda of the current administration.
After the meeting, Umahi read out a communique in which he mentioned concerns raised by the manufacturers.
These concerns include: bad roads, smuggling, high cost of energy, and the Forex crisis. This according to the manufacturers were the primary reasons behind the price hike.
He also said the manufacturers which include Dangote Cement PLC, BUA Cement PLC, Larfarge Africa PLC and Cement Producers Association, expressed willingness to reduce the prices going forward.
Representatives of the Federal Government include the Minister of Works and his counterpart in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
While reading the communique, Umahi said: “The meeting noted the challenges of the manufacturers like: cost of gas; high import duty on spare parts; bad road network; high foreign exchange; and smuggling of cement to neighbouring nations.
“The government noted the challenges and reacted as follows: Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to seek some remedies from Mr. President on cost of gas and import duties.”
We Are Hungry, Dying, Ibadan Protesters Tell Tinubu
Thousands of people, on Monday, thronged the major streets of Ibadan in Oyo State, to protest the hardship in the country.
The protesters, who are mainly youths, kept saying they were not out to cause trouble, but to call the attention of all the tiers of governments to the unbearable hardship in the country.
Though they did not use any objects to block the roads, they converged on accesses leading to the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, Sango, Dugbe and Eleyele, thereby blocking vehicular traffic.
They displayed several placards with inscriptions such as ‘Give us good health, End bad governance, End food hike, Open border, End hardship, ‘Is this the renewed hope you promised?’
At intervals, organisers of the protest kept updating the security agents who kept vigilance to arrest anyone who caused problem or hijacked the protest for selfish ends.
During the protest, some schools and banks shut their gates.
The Tide learnt that the protest was convened through the social media.
One of the messages sent by the conveners read, “People should not pass through Mokola roundabout because there will be protest on Monday”.
The message advised that motorists should take alternative routes to their destinations.
A lady who refused to disclose her name, caught the attention of many people with a placard that read: ‘Sanitary pad now costs N4,000; we can’t be using cloth, Please, help us’. Nothing should happen to me. All I’m asking for is my legitimate earning and ease of life.’
Another woman, who identified herself as Mobolaji Inaolaji, one of the coordinators, said: “We want to tell our leaders that things are not right, they should make things easier for us. We are not here to cause violence, things are too costly and people are dying.
“It is our right to protest whether we got permit or not. We have told the security agents that they should arrest whoever causes problem. We are peaceful and law abiding. All we want is to make government know our pains. We will go through most parts of the city.”
Other protesters who were speaking with anger, said: “This problem is too much. Whoever wants to arrest me should come and do so. If we don’t die outside, we’ll die at home.”
After about an hour at Mokola, the protesters headed towards Sango and other parts of the city.
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