When the Supreme Court eventually sacked all the winners of the 2019 General Elections in Zamfara State under the platform of All Progressive Congress (APC) and ordered those who contested under the People Democratic Party (PDP) to be sworn in, a floodgate of arguments was widely opened among the populace particularly among the lawyers. The biggest of the debate was the one between Professor Itsey Sagay (SAN) and Chief Adegboyegan Awomolo. Professor Sagay raised some questions that seemed to be too controversial and advised the APC’s legal team to approach the Supreme Court for the review of the two (Rivers and Zamfara States) Judgments. According to the learned Professor in his contention: “Their Lordships ought to be given an opportunity to reverse this unprecedented tragedy…”
Chief Adegboyegan Awomolo, a learned Senior Advocate Nigeria in his rejoinder completely disagreed with learned Professor when he said:
“With respect,one fails to see the relevance of the argument of technicality , rather we see substantial justice having its roots on the clear facts of this case .The mandatory provision of section 87 of the Electoral Act and the trite law that only the National Chairman and Secretary of a political party that can submit nomination of the party candidates not state chairmen or such subordinate office ,stuck to by the Supreme Court promote substantial justice…The law has become established that where voters in the exercise of their franchise chose a candidate whose standing is void in law ,such votes are regarded as thrown away.A candidate whose candidature is invalid and void cannot to have lawful votes. ”
In this line of arguments, I honestly pitched my tent with Chief Awomolo.If the APC’s legal team goes to the Supreme Court for the review of its judgements, what will the team impress on the apex court? The Supreme Court ordinarily will not depart from it previous decisions unless it can be shown that such decisions have or will perpetrate injustice or will impede the development of law.The APC rather than going to the Supreme Court for review should put its house in order for the future elections to act according to the law. Although such move may in one way or the other help the development of law as such application will be welcome by the Supreme Court and decides it in one way or other in the interest of fair hearing. The fact still remains that most times the apex court hardly departs from its previous judgements. It is in this part of the world that you see democracy being practised differently as demonstrated in states like Imo and Ogun States where the Governors ran for the senatorial seats on the platform of APC and sponsored candidates for the Governorship seats in another political parties.In states like Rivers and Zamfara ,the APC politicians found it difficult to unanimously produce a single candidate each for the State to run on the platform of the APC. Can you blame the Supreme Court or question its supremacy for doing the right thing when the same political party refused to follow the rules of the game?
Political parties in Nigeria must learn to do the right things and abide by the rules of the game as lay down by the Electoral Act. As long as they prefer to do things in their own way contrary to the spirit of law, they will always be at the receiving end except those affected by such illegality decide to do nothing. Political parties and the politicians must learn to imbibe the spirit of party discipline.
Asking the Supreme Court to up turn its judgment is like a refusal to accept its supremacy on its findings and want it revisited .For an applicant to succeed on such voyage, the onus is on him to show that the apex court’s findings has or will perpetrate injustice, that it has or will impede development of law; that it is against public policy or that the decision was given per incuriaum (meaning that without the court’s attention having been drawn to the relevant authority or statute). The failure on the part of applicant to establishing all these after invoking the apex court to revisit its findings will not be palatable to the applicant and his counsel as they may be seriously horsewhipped by the Supreme Court like those given to the judges of courts below for questioning its supremacy or refused to be bound by its decisions. Nothing provokes the Supreme Court than the refusal to follow its decisions. A trial judge that once tried it was unanimously and heavily descended upon by the full panel of the Supreme Court in the case of DALHATU Vs. TURAKI (2003) 7 SC Page 1. Hon Justice Katsina-Alu JSC (as he then was) in his leading judgment at page 10 set the ball rolling:
“The conduct of the learned trial judge…. is to say the least most unfortunate. This court is the highest and final court of appeal in Nigeria. Its decision binds every court, authority or person in Nigeria. By the doctrine of stare decisis, the courts below are bound to follow the decision of Supreme Court. The doctrine is a sine qua non for certainty to the practice and application of law .A refusal, therefore, by a Judge of the court below to be bound by this court decision, is gross insubordination (and I dare say such a judicial Officer is a misfit in the judiciary)”.
The other jurists on the panel equally did not take it easy with the trial judge as Kutigi ,JSC (as he then was) in the case referring to the trial judge said: “His action had been variously described as ‘gross insubordination’, ‘judicial rascality’, ‘reckless’, ‘judicial impertinence’ among others. I think he richly deserved the description. I have nothing more to add” .Ogundare, JSC in his own words said: “This is to my mind is the height of judicial impertinence ever exhibited by a judge of a court lower than the Supreme Court…he would not have exhibited such crass ignorance that ran through his judgment” . Kalgo, JSC (as he then was) said the action of the trial judge “is rather daring and unfortunate”. According to Ejiwunmi JSC he said if the trial judge had understood the settled principle of stare decisis he would have refrained from making the observation while Tobi ,JSC said : “This is an extremely unfortunate situation…This is very serious. On my part, I will not obey him. He is wrong in his judgment and this court is correct”.The Supreme court in conclusion per Edozie JSC said: “The refusal by the Abuja High court of Abuja to follow that binding decision which is on all fours with the case being adjudicated upon amount to judicial rascality which calls for strong deprecation”.
Of all the above seven great Supreme Court jurists that sat on the case, only Hon. Justice Umar Atu Kalgo that is still physically in our midst while the six other learned jurist have passed to the great beyond but they still live with us in their words they have all left behind in their various judgments. May the respective souls continue to rest in peace. Similarly Eso, JSC expressed his dissatisfaction with the Court of Appeal in the case Dr. Okonjo Vs Drodje (1985) 10 SC 267 at Pg. 268-269 for its refusal to follow the Supreme Court’s decision when he said:
“Our decisions were no doubt brought before the Court of Appeal, but strangely enough, the learned justices preferred their decision which states wrong principle of law to the decision of the court (Supreme Court). In the hierarchy of the courts in this country, one thing is clear, however learned a lower court considers itself to be and however contemptuous of the higher court that the lower court is still bound by the decision of the higher court. I hope that it will never happen again whereby Court of Appeal in the country or any lower court for that matter, would deliberately go against the decision of this court, and in this case ,even to the extent of not considering the decisions when those of this court were brought to the notice of that court. This is the discipline of law. This is what makes law certain and prevents it from being an ass.”
The lesson here is that an applicant that wants the Supreme Court to revisit its findings must be very sure of his facts before approaching the court for the review of its judgement while also all courts below the Supreme Court must always be bound by the decisions of the apex court whenever they are brought to their attention. Also an inferior court must equally be bound and follow the decision of a court that is superior to it as this is the only way to maintain certainty in the practice of law.
THE RUGA SETTLEMENT CONTROVERSY
Prior to the suspension of what has now come to be known as the Ruga Settlement earlier proposed by the Federal Government, I for one was not impressed by the controversies that greeted such government proposal and programme. Some people that disagreed with the proposal have said it was proving the former president Olusegun Obasanjo right on fulanisation of Nigeria which I do not agree with. I agreed with the view that open grazing is bad and has been one of the factors responsible for the incessant crisis between the farmers and herdsmen across the country.I have said it before that the farmers need the herdsmen while the herdsmen at the same need the farmers but we unfortunately live in a country where enough has been done to promote unity among ourselves hence we have incessant crisis. What is the best way to find have permanent solution to this incessant crisis? I think the government at this time coming up with the idea of Ruga Settlement is to find a solution to this problem.This proposal has been misinterpreted by many people on the social media and this has led to protest whereby many people have kicked against the policy on the ground that the purpose is to establish settlemens for the Fulani across the country whereas it has been said that the Ruga Settlement is not mainly for the Fulanis but all other people interested in animal ranching.It has equally been said that some foreign companies and international organisation have shown interest in the project.
My contention has been that if we all actually agreed that the open grazing is bad and should not be allowed again, will it be fair to kick against restricting those who rear cattle to some particular places or settlements so as stop further nuisance? It is very unfortunate that alot of misinformation have been spread about this government policy. While some have continued to spread the rumour that the Ruga Settlement will be in all the 36 states, it has been revealed that only about 12 Northern States excluding Benue State have shown readiness to embrace the scheme and that the issue have been discussed up to the level of the Council of State. Since it is now the law that the lands belong to the states and not the Federal Government, any state that is opposed to the policy cannot be forced to embrace the scheme while at the same time it will not be proper condemning those states that embrace the policy .In this part of the world, a particular state that does not belong to the ruling party at the national level may not see anything good in the policy being introduced by the government at the national level even if it will be advantageous to the people of that state. This has actually shown how intolerant and unaccommodating we are to one another.
My take is that those states that are opposed to Ruga Settlement can opt for Farm Settlement and let them call it whatever name they want since it is the Federal government sponsored programme. This policy will have the potential and capacity to providing job opportunity for the army of unemployed youths who are interested in large scale commercial farming instead of allowing them to be roaming about the streets. Agriculture is an area that we ought to reinvent and develop as it was done during the first republic by those our great and visionary leaders but this time around with innovation and technonogy as are being done in the developed countries. This country is greatly blessed with fertile lands which were massively used to produce ground nuts, cottons, cocoa and palm karnels among others for export by regional governments in those days. The same land are still there today but have been deliberately abandoned by the successive governments. I do not know the reasons why some states cannot form partnership in various ares of agricultural production and manufacturing if they cannot do it alone within their states. I do not subscribe to the view by some people that agriculture in any form should strictly be private business that the government should not intervene. I strongly support private and public partnership in Agriculture for better development.
Those who are spreading misinformation and hatred are not in any way helping this country. The promoters of such vices seem to have other places to run to with their families after they must have succeeded in inciting people against one another. Those who are being brainwashed must be on their guide and be rational in their thinkings and ask themselves: what values have those inciting them against other people added to their lives? Nobody can claim monopoly of inciting words as such vices is bound to create ethnic and religious tension which consequence will not blow the nation any good wind. Another unfortunate thing is that the religious leaders that ought to be in the fore front of promoting harmony among the people are doing the opposite while some so-called elites and newspaper columnists that ought to know better and promote proper understanding are speading hate speeches in the name of freedom of speech. We all need to be patriotic in anything we say or do to promote peace and unity as that is what we need most in this country because without peace, there cannot be any meaningful economic and social stability.
REMARKABLE PRONOUNCEMENT ON POWER OF SUPREME COURT TO OVERRULE ITSELF
“We are final not because we are infallible; rather we are infallible because we are final. Justices of this court are human beings, capable of erring. It will be certainly be short-sighted arrogance not to accept this obvious truth. It is also true that this court can do inestimable good through its wise decision; similarly, the court can do incalculable harm through its mistakes. When therefore, it appears to the learned counsel that any decision of this court has been given per incuriam, such counsel should have the boldness and courage to ask that such a decision be overruled. This court has power to overrule itself (and has done so in the past) for it gladly accepts that it is better to admit an error than to persevere in error”.
Per OPUTA, JSC in the case of Adegoke Vs. Adesanya (1989 ) 4 NWLR (Pt. 109) at 274-275
THE SETTLED PRINCIPLE OF LAW
On whether courts can suo motu make case for parties before it
It is an elementary and fundamental principle for the determination of disputes between parties that judgment must be confined to the issues raised by the parties. It is clearly not competent for the judge suo motu to make a case for either or both the parties and then proceed to give judgment on the case so formulated contrary to the case of the parties before him. It is well settled that a plaintiff is bound by the case put forward in writ of summons.
See Nigerian Housing Development Society Ltd & Ors. Vs. Yaya Mumuni (1977) 2 SC 57; Adeniji Vs. Adeniji (1972) 1 ALL NLR (Pt. 1) 298; ACB Ltd Vs. Attorney-General, Northern Nigeria (1969) NMLR 231; COMMISSIONER FOR WORKS & ORS Vs. DEVCON DEV. CONSULTANT LTD & ORS (1988) 7 SC. (Pt. 1) at Pg. 41, Lines 5-15
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