Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud SAN

* The Nigerian Judiciary Must Be Saved Both Against Itself And Against The Onslaught Of The Executive Branch
* The Nigerian Judiciary Is Now At Cross Roads
*Says The Nation’s Democracy Remains In The Doldrum
*Says Politicians, On The Whole Are Now Goaded More By Crass Self-Interest
*The Federal Administration Resorted To What Amounts To Reckless Misadventure In Its Fight Against Corruption In The Judiciary

The immediate Past President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud SAN, OON, has said that the current onslaught on the nation’s judiciary is coming amidst general crisis of loss of confidence in the institution.

The Learned Silk made this assertion whilst presenting a paper titled, “The Judiciary and Democratization in Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges”, to the 36th Annual Aminu Kano Memorial Symposium  at the  Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Studies Bayero University Kano, on the 17th of April, 2019, which was made available to TheNigerialawyer (TNL).

According to him, it is a matter of debate whether 36 years since the death of Mallam Aminu Kano, our country is anywhere close to attainment of the vision of its founders and early leaders. Highlighting some of the ordeals the nation’s democracy has faced to get to the stage it is, he noted that the Nigerian judiciary has been a part of the journey contributing strongly to the strengthening of the democratic institutions and processes. However, In spite of these achievements, the country’s democracy remains in the doldrums. He noted that politicians, on the whole are now goaded more by crass self-interest than by any mission to serve or by any ideals or ideological persuasions, stressing that, if anyone is aspiring to govern the people, then he or she must tell the people how he or she wishes to address the contemporary issues facing the people.

“Indeed, in many respects we have retrogressed in our journey. Not least in the quality of leadership. Politicians, on the whole are now goaded more by crass self-interest than by any mission to serve or by any ideals or ideological persuasions. In their quest to realize their inordinate ambitions, nothing is sacred. They are willing to trample on anyone or to desecrate any values.

“We have seen this in the most recent elections here in Kano and in many places indeed across the country. I once said to one of Kano’s leading contemporary politicians that the problem these days is that we know nothing about the people who aspire to govern us, that is in terms of their ideas or vision. We do not know what they represent. Many don’t read, and most don’t write!

“No one should aspire to govern us without telling us what his views are on contemporary problems facing us. Aspiring political leaders in the north should tell us their views on Almajirci and how to tackle it; on social policy and the protection of women and children, on dire state of public infrastructure; on reviving our economy, on strategy to be part of the new era of Knowledge economy; on climate change; we need to know where they envision us to be in the next 50, 100 years?; Where do they stand on the Rule of Law?” he asked.

Speaking on the transformation of the peaceful plains of some areas in Northern Nigeria into what he describes as killing fields, he stated that those issues must be a matter of great concern to every patriot. He, however, added that the problems are not only in the political sphere, but the judiciary and legal institutions seem to be sinking along with the politicians, stressing that in spite of lofty Contributions to Nigerian democratization, the Nigerian Judiciary is now at cross roads.

“The problems are not only in the political sphere, but the judiciary and legal institutions seem to be sinking along with the politicians. In spite of lofty Contributions to Nigerian democratization, the Nigerian Judiciary is now at cross roads. Perhaps at no time in the history of Nigeria has the public confidence in the judicial branch of government been at such low ebb. The Buhari administration came on board with the mantra of the fight against corruption including in the judicial branch.

“The current onslaught on the judiciary is coming amidst general crisis of loss of confidence in the institution. Nigerian court system has become notorious for its delays both in civil and criminal justice administration. Corruption especially in the lower courts and court registries is well known. Judicial appointments have also been beset by all manner of irregularities, of influence peddling and nepotism. In Kano here a High Court Judge was removed for a sophisticated scheme of impersonation and fraud. The institution has in many ways become insular. No wonder, the general public exhibited no sympathies on the recent travails of the judiciary,” he said.

The Learned Silk also emphasized that the events of 2016 and the more recent one of 2019 which deals with the non-assets declaration charges against Justice Onnoghen have exposed the Nigerian judiciary to public contempt and ridicule, partly as a result of its own failing or weakness but also as result of the reckless action of the Federal Administration. According to him, the events have exposed the administration as lacking in any strategy for the reform of the judiciary as a result of which it has resorted to what amounts to reckless misadventure.

He stressed that as it is, the Nigerian judiciary must be saved both against itself and against the onslaught of the executive branch which from all indications appears to be motivated more by its self-interest rather than a genuine desire for meaningful and sustainable reforms.

Speaking on legal order and National Security, he said that his term as President of the Nigerian Bar Association between August 2016 and August 2018, afforded him an opportunity to appreciate the close link between the failures of legal institutions in particular the courts and communal conflicts in many parts of the country. Listing some of the observations and findings made during his time, he said that there is urgent need for reforms.

“In much of rural northern Nigeria, the failure of governance is almost self-evident. There is evidence of systemic failure of local courts and absence of credible justice administration. In the current situation therefore, there is an urgent need for legal and institutional reforms if the current tide of insecurity is to be stemmed and if our journey to democracy is to become meaningful.

“In other words, building democracy must now focus on re-establishing the efficacy of administrative and legal institutions, improving administration of justice both civil and criminal and improving social provisioning thereby making the lives of rural populations meaningful,” he added.

The learned silk also thanked the leaders of the institution for inviting him to speak at the event commemorating the death of one of Nigeria’s most iconic political figures: The late Mallam Aminu Kano, who died 36 years ago on April 17, 1983.

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