In this interview with KUNLE OLASANMI, Dr. Benson Enikuomehin said the judiciary in the country should be commended for the successes it had recorded in the past years.
Judiciary in Nigeria
To say we should assess the judiciary, we have to look back and see its successes and failures. But if I may say, I think the judiciary in the country has not done badly. Even, under the military, it stood its ground and delivered judgements to render some decisions of the military government a nullity. I remember the case of Ojukwu versus Lagos State government and I also remember the judgement that rendered the Interim National Government given to the country by former Head of State, Ibrahim Bagangida a nullity. Till date, that judgement has not been appealed against. So, the judiciary has exhibited bravery, even, in the face of tyrrany. It is one of my contention that Chief Ernest Shonekan should not be referred to as a former Head of State because a competent court of jurisdiction had rendered that office and appointment a nullity. We can also not rule out one or two Judas Iscariot in the judiciary.
Judges and politicians’ antics
Judges are supposed to be men and women of integrity but you cannot also rule out the possibility of one or two of them going against their oath of office. While it is true that a judge should give judgement based on the facts before him, I also think judges should be cautious or wary of litigants who move from one court to the other looking for safe haven or favourable order of court. I think to a large extent, these judges should draw the attention of their Chief Judge to cases with similar subject matter because if you do that, there won’t be the issue of judges giving conflicting judgements. The judges cannot claim ignorance of similar cases because they are reported in the media. Politicians who file these matters are always looking for soft landing that is why they don’t go to higher courts most of the time when a judgement or ruling is not in their favour.
I think the NJC is worried and should look into some of these issues that are dragging the judiciary into the mud. They are very sad developments but they are unexpected.
NJC Probe of Judges
The probe of judges involved in giving conflicting judgements cannot be said to be coming late. The NJC must adhere to the principle of fair-hearing. They are entitled to be heard to defend their actions.As of right, they must be heard. Whether their explanation is tenable or not is another issue entirely.
Stripping Police of prosecutory power
While I may not be in the best position to know what informed the decision of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to set up the committe, my question will also be that, are lawyers in the Nigeria Police and other security agencies not qualified lawyers? If they are, then under the law, they can prosecute some of these cases, if assigned to them. The AGF may have taken the decision to fast-track dispensation of justice. To him, the rate at which those cases are being prosecuted may be too slow. Or maybe he noticed that corruption did not allow the cases to move at a fast pace.
I have my fears that if the recommendation of the committee is implemented, another AGF will come tomorrow and say that is not the way to go and change that policy. The issue of prosecution begins after the police have done their investigation. I am of the view that stripping police of prosecutory power won’t solve the problem the AGF is running away from, rather, it will compound it because we may have congestion of cases in our courts. How many lawyers do you have in the Ministry of Justice that will be able to handle these cases?
EFCC Boss’ rogue comment
I see that comment as over-generalisation of issues. When you see a set of people, you don’t just generalise and categorise them as one. To become a lawyer takes a lot. You have to become a person of impeccable character. That is why people can trust you with their Will, money and a lot of things. When you describe people like this, particularly, senior lawyers as rogue, can you conduct your case by yourself, if you have one? For example, when people say the police are not good, who do you go to when you are attacked by armed robbers? We must extricate those that are not doing well from the bunch that are doing well. To call senior lawyers that kind of name is very unfortunate. Honestly, such statement should not be emanating from a person of that calibre. You may have had dealings with one or two persons that have not done very well and you should be bold enough to come out and say that I have had encounter with these lawyers and they did not conduct themselves well. We should not over-generalise.
We should be specific when making allegations against particular set of people. With greatest respect to Mr. President, as he moves round the world, he should try and paint the country in a good light in the eyes of the rest of the world. Every country has its own challenge because whatever he says will have a negative image on the country. If you have senior lawyers who are corrupt, set a bait for them, they will catch the bait because they are corrupt and you will get them arrested and prosecuted because they are not immune from prosecution.