•SANs seek pick of senior lawyers as judges •CJN laments depletion of Justices
NATIONAL Leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Monday cautioned against undue vilification of the Judiciary.
Tinubu said Judiciary, being an important pillar in the sustenance of democracy, must be respected and its image protected always.
He advised that, having adopted democracy as a system of government, we must learn to abide by the rule of law and decisions of the Judiciary irrespective of our disposition to such decisions
Speaking to reporters after the valedictory court session at the Supreme Court in honour of Justice Amiru Sanusi who retired after attaining the age of 70, Tinubu said: Nigeria’s adoption of democracy as a form of government “is an irrevocable commitment to the rule of law.”
He added: “Yes, some people are bound to succeed and some will fail (in court). Reasonableness and honesty; integrity and the character of the Judiciary have always been reflected in their judgments.
“That is what we signed up to as a democratic nation. We should not tarnish the reputation of the Judiciary when its decision goes against us.
“Life is difficult. Judgment and perfection are of God Almighty. And so, if you notice an error in a way and what you perceived as an error and did not favour you, you should try again. You must not be a winner at every game.
“We will continue to promote the Judiciary as an important pillar in the sustenance of our democratic dispensation. We have chosen democracy and the Judiciary is a very important arm of the government. We must give the Bench the necessary support.
“We will continue to promote the Judiciary as an important pillar in the sustenance of our democratic dispensation. We have chosen democracy and the Judiciary is a very important arm of the government. We must give the Bench the necessary support,” he said.
The event was attended by among others, Governors Adegboyega Oyetaola (Osun); Aminu Masari (Katsina) (the home state of the retired jurist) and Muhammad Abubakar (Jigawa).
Also a leader of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), Chief Thompson Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN) frowned at the growing practice of undue criticism of the Judiciary over its decisions.
Okpoko who spoke during the valedictory session, on behalf of BOSAN, said: “The political class in our country does not appear to be ready to appreciate the difficult task of judging and determining issues of fact and Law applicable to any case.
“They rush out to criticize the Judgments of our courts which they may not have read. In this way, victorious parties in a particular case, jubilate and go for thanksgiving singing praises of the Judiciary and declare openly that the Judiciary is truly the last hope of the common man.
“When that same victorious party loses in another case, he cries out to the high heavens, accusing the Judiciary of corruption and other high crimes against his interest.
“In recent times, the unfounded accusation against some judicial officers has moved to a call for resignation of a particular judicial officer because the judgment delivered in his court went against their expectation.
“The call for resignation of a judge because of his judgment, is a dangerous excursion into the territory of Judicial independence.
“Blackmail and intimidation are not compatible bedmates for the effective dispensation of Justice.
“When the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Vice President A.L Gore and stopped him from pursuing his petition further in the Supreme Court, all he said was, ‘I do not agree with the Judgment but I have to accept the Judgment of the Supreme Court’.
“Why can’t the political class in Nigeria adopt the same attitude and respect our Judicial Institution?
“We, lawyers must stand up and fight for the judiciary as an institution. Time has come for us and our clients to be held accountable for these unwanted attacks on the judiciary.”
Okpoko urged Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Ibrahim Muhammad to reconsider his opposition to the appointment of judges from among practicing lawyers.
The Senior Advocate, who cited instances in the past when senior lawyers were appointed to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, urged the CJN to create a platform for stakeholders in the judicial sector to resolve the seeming contrasting positions on the issue.
He said: “Let the door be open to every legible lawyer as enshrined in Section 231(3) and Section 238(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“What the appellate court needs are more intellectually sound, efficient and hard-working justices. Only the best lawyers from the Bar and the Bench should man the apex court.
“It is the final court; It is not a court for carrying out legal experiment or training. This is a serious issue which deserves serious consideration.
“It is not a matters to whether the Bar agrees or disagrees with the stand of the Hon. Chief Justice round table talk and in-house debate.
“I plead with the Right Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria to arrange for this in-house discussion, as it is in the interest of all stakeholders. Unity and oneness of the Bar and Bench is of fundamental importance in policies concerning the operations of courts and the administration of Justice.
“Until we have a rethink on what appears to be the prohibition imposed on senior members of the Bar from being appointed into the appellate court, the pressure for change is not going to go away anytime soon.
“The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria therefore appeal to the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria and all the appointing authorities of the country to have a rethink and let the need to have a virile Judiciary prevail,” Okpoko said.
The CJN, who eulogised retired Justice Sanusi, regretted that the rank of Justices of the Supreme Court was fast depleting without prompt replacement.
Muhammad said: “You will recall that barely seven weeks ago, being Thursday, 12th December, 2019, we assembled here to honour our brother, Justice Kumai Bayang Aka’ahs, JSC, OFR in a similar valedictory session.
“That ceremony painfully occasioned the depleting of our ranks at the Supreme Court. In a similar fashion, this session, too, is billed to further drastically reduce the number of Supreme Court justices as low as 13.
“This is not cheering news in view of the ever increasing number of appeals that flood the court on daily basis.
“The highly embarrassing litigious nature of Nigerians gives no space for the Justices of the court to rest their nerves.
“We are daily inundated and suffocated with cases of different types that we can hardly have time for ourselves and our families,” the CJN said.
Other speakers, including the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (represented by the Solicitor General of the Fedration, Dayo Apata) and President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro (SAN) also took turn to shower encomium on the retired Justice Sanusi.
Justice Sanusi, who recalled his journey through life, was full of praises for his professional colleagues and senior judges, who aided his appointment as a judicial officer and his growth over the years.