Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana, has called for an amendment of the Constitution in order to allow retired judges to handle election petitions as well as appeals arising from them.
He made the appeal in a statement issued on Thursday, saying that the injustice meted out to litigants whose cases are not political, should stop forthwith in the interest of justice.
According to him, over 350 judges drawn from State High Courts, Federal High Court and National Industrial Court who are handling election petitions have adjourned all matters pending in their courts “sine die”.
“Their Lordships and Ladyships are said to have left their jurisdictions for “national assignment” in other parts of the country.
“Apart from appeals arising from pre-election cases and election petitions, both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court are adjourning all pending appeals till 2020 and 2021.
“The vacation of the Justices of the Court of Appeal has been cancelled to enable them to handle election-related appeals,” he said.
The SAN further stated that since all litigants are equal before the law, it is high time the preference given to election petitions and appeals by Nigerian courts was reviewed.
According to him, in some neighbouring African countries election petitions are not handled by regular courts but by constitutional courts.
Therefore, “if our retired judges can handle arbitral matters and participate in judicial commissions of enquiry they should be saddled with the responsibility to handle election petitions and appeals arising from them”.
It added that only the court divisions in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt will function during the vacation, and litigants were at liberty to approach only these courts.
While the Abuja division will cater to cases from the Federal Capital Territory, North Central, North Western, and the North Eastern parts of the country, the Lagos division would cater to cases from the South West, while the Port Harcourt division would cater to cases from the South-South and South East.
However, only cases of extreme urgency will be entertained by the vacation judges during the period.
The circular revealed that only Justice Nicholas Oweibo and Professor Chuka Obiozor have been assigned to sit as vacation judges in Lagos.
The courts’ long vacation is observed annually, pursuant to the provisions of Order 46 rule 4 (a) of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules 2009.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana has asked the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to designate judges of the court to conduct a monthly inspection of detention facilities of agencies of the Federal Government.
He made the appeal in a letter addressed to Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati, and made available to Channels TV.
The Senior Advocate says in order to end the illegal detention of criminal suspects and political detainees in the country, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 has made copious provisions for pre-trial detention, detention time limits and monthly inspection of all police stations by Chief Magistrates designated by the Chief Judge of each state of the Federation.
He further stated that pursuant to Section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, the Chief Justice of Nigeria directed all Chief Judges in the country to designate Judges to conduct monthly inspections of all police stations and other detention facilities of the agencies of the Federal government authorized to make arrests.
Mr Falana said in line with this directive, the Chief Judges of the Federal Capital Territory and the 36 States of the Federation have complied but for some undisclosed reasons, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court was yet to comply with the directive.
Owing to the increasing wave of indiscriminate arrest and prolonged detention of many citizens and foreigners living in Nigeria, Mr Falana says he is compelled to request Justice Abdu-Kafarati to comply.
According to him, some agencies of the Federal Government authorized to make arrests have continued to detain thousands of persons without trial in various detention facilities in the country.
He says “In particular, scores of people are being detained by the Nigerian armed forces, in detention facilities including underground cells and some of the detainees have been held incommunicado in dehumanizing detention conditions for over three years without trial.
Citing the recent detention of a journalist, Mr Jones Abiri who was recently released from unlawful custody of the State Security Service, on the orders of a Federal High Court, Mr Falana says his law firm has since requested the new management of the State Security Service to release about 294 other detainees who have been detained for about 3 years without trial.
While the DSS has released a number of the detainees from illegal custody, the human rights lawyer said the authorities of the Nigerian Navy have largely ignored his demand for the release of about 150 persons held in naval detention facilities in Lagos, Abuja, Calabar, Warri and Port Harcourt.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria says he is convinced that if Justice Abdu-Kafarati designates Judges of the Federal High Court to visit the detention facilities of the agencies of the Federal Government, the detainees would either have been released or granted bail or recommended for trial without any delay.
Specifically, he wants the designate judges of the Federal High Court to urgently visit the detention facilities of the Nigerian Navy.
He, therefore, stated that if the request is not granted within seven days, he would not hesitate to file a suit at the Federal High Court to compel Justice Abdu-Kafarati to carry out his duty under section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
Hundreds of Romanian judges demonstrated in major cities on Friday, and prosecutor’s offices decided to suspend work to protest against a government decree they say threatens judicial independence.
Around 200 prosecutors and judges were applauded in Bucharest as they walked in silence to the Court of Appeals, with onlookers calling out, “We support you” and “Don’t give in.”
The movement was triggered by a decree adopted Monday by the Social-Democratic (PSD) government that changes rules for nominating various categories of judges and reinforces a new disciplinary jurisdiction.
“The rule of law is more than threatened, it is at risk of collapsing,” prosecutor Radu Budurica from Caras-Severin, southwestern Romania said.
The new decree could “paralyse prosecutor’s work, and that is unacceptable,” Bucharest judge Georgiana Flutus told AFP.
Several prosecutor’s offices said they would suspend work starting Monday for three to seven days.
The government has also clashed several times in recent months with EU officials who are alarmed by what they see as repeated attempts to undermine the independence of the Romanian judiciary.
PSD lawmakers have tried for two years to overhaul the judiciary, citing “abuses” by magistrates.
Critics say the real goal is to protect PSD chief Liviu Dragnea, who has been convicted of electoral fraud and is the target of two other judicial procedures.
The decree also puts pressure on center-right Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to name Adina Florea as head of the National Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (DNA) in place of Laura Codruta Kovesi, who was dismissed from the post in July.
Under Kovesi’s watch, hundreds of elected officials were convicted of corruption offences, earning her the enmity of many in Romania’s political class and criticism that she had overstepped her mandate.
On his Facebook account, President Iohannis said the government was “obsessed (about) weakening the justice system until it is no longer effective.”
Romania should not be allowed to be run by people “who want to place justice under political control”, he added.
The judges also called for the suspension of a special panel of magistrates set up just four months ago despite fierce criticism by EU experts.
The panel has opened an investigation of Kovesi and launched a probe against the EU Commission’s deputy president Frans Timmermans and Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova for alleged abuse of office and making false statements about Romania.
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, has stopped judges from issuing ex parte orders in political cases as a way of ending controversies in election matters.
Justice Kafarati made this known on Monday at a special court session to mark the commencement of the Federal High Court’s legal year 2018/2019.
Justice Kafarati also directed judges who have political cases pending before their court to conclude the cases before the end of October 2018.
This move, according to the Chief Judge, will reduce the controversies that surround political cases.
“In an attempt to forestall any hiccups and the blame on the court by the political gladiators, I have during this vacation issued a circular that interim orders ex parte shall not be granted in any political case brought before the court,” he said.
“I believe that controversies, especially in political cases, can be reduced when the court takes a decision after hearing all the parties in the case.”
Concerning the deadline he gave for the conclusion of pending cases, Justice Kafarati said, “It is also extremely important that all political cases that may affect any of the parties which are still pending in any of our courts be concluded without further waste of time to afford all candidates the opportunity to pursue their political ambitions.
“Honourable judges before whom such cases are still pending must endeavour to conclude them before the end of October 2018.”
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), however, wants the rule of law to be respected at all times.
NBA President, Paul Usoro, urged the judges to resist all attempts to subvert the law.
He said, “Given the imminence of our 2019 national elections, this legal year would be anything but ordinary, particularly given the tendency of our politicians to reduce the quest for office and positions as do-or-die affairs.
“Attempts are sometimes made to drag Your Lordship’s courts into these murky waters of politics and in the process embarrass the justice sub-sector.
“Happily, Your Lordships have always, in the main, resisted these attempts and it is our hope that Your Lordships will maintain this stance and position in the coming weeks and months, starting from the imminent cases that would be filed before Your Lordships in regard to parties’ primaries and pre-election matters and right up to the election petitions and other ancillary post-election matters.”
Four judges accused of taking bribes in Ghana have been suspended, the presidency announced Wednesday, in the latest fallout from a graft scandal rocking the country’s judiciary.
President Nana Akufo-Addo suspended the high court judges after a disciplinary committee launched a case against them.
The four belonged to a group of 12 judges who were caught on tape in 2015 by a local journalist investigating allegations of bribe-taking to influence cases.
“The suspension follows the establishment of a prima facie case against the four justices by the committee set up by the chief justice to investigate alleged acts of bribery and corruption,” said presidency spokesman Eugene Arhin in a statement.
Twenty lower court judges and magistrates have already been sacked following the bribery expose that shocked the west African nation, which prides itself on being a bastion of democracy and good governance in the region.
The undercover footage purported to show the judges and more than 100 court officials accepting money from clients for everything from appointments to false rulings.
Some of those featured in the expose tried to block the broadcast of the film but it was eventually shown to packed crowds, prompting calls for judicial reform.
The investigative journalist behind the expose, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who uses an array of disguises, has become a celebrity in Ghana.
Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi has attributed the slow dispensation of justice to the high number of cases that judges across the country are being burdened with.
The governor said this on Wednesday while inaugurating the Oyo State Multi-Door Court House located within the premises of the State High Court, Ibadan.
He appealed to litigants to embrace the newly-introduced multi-court door initiative which he described as a friendly alternative route to seeking redress and liberalising access to justice.
Governor Ajimobi explained that the multi-court door system was in furtherance of alternative dispute resolution system which he described as Nigeria’s native jurisprudence before the contemporary court system came into being.
“The official commissioning of the multi-door court house today is a clear signal that we are returning to our root where issues are resolved amicably without the much-experienced delays, complex legalese and drain on the resources of the state and disputants,” he said.
The governor stressed that the aim was not meant to minimise the roles of the courts, especially the courts of records which play a pivotal role in the maintenance of civil and social order in the society.
He, however, said the objective was to ensure that government provides a credible alternative, yet constitutional route, towards dispute resolution and attainment of justice.
In further justifying the introduction of the multi-door court system in the state, Ajimobi frowned at what he called the “astronomical addition to the court docket quarterly”, saying the development might hamper speedy dispensation of justice.
He insisted that the multi-door court process would enable disputants to access the various other dispute resolution options such as mediation, arbitration, conciliation, early neutral evaluation and hybrid processes.
“I understand from the information available to me that each one of our judges in the High Court currently carries a caseload of between 300 and 400 cases per court, which number increases monthly.
“So far, within this first quarter of 2018 only, I am informed that 306 new civil cases have been filed by disputants before the Oyo State High Court and 173 criminal cases filed by the Ministry of Justice and the police,” the governor said.
He decried that in such situation, the administration of justice system may never be able to achieve speedy dispensation of justice without an initiative like the multi-door court.
Also speaking at the occasion, the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Oluseun Abimbola, highlighted the landmark performances of the present administration.
He described the multi-door court process as part of Governor Ajimobi’s administration’s legacy of restoration, transformation, and repositioning the state, for which the legal profession in the state would remain grateful.
Abimbola urged all stakeholders and the organised private sector to embrace and harness the benefits of the new initiative in the state’s justice system for their own benefit.
The Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta Abimbola, also thanked the governor for the initiative and promised that the state’s legal administration would do all within its power to enhance justice delivery in the state.
The National Judicial Council (NJC) has recommended the compulsory retirement of two judges to the Abia State Governor, Mr Okezie Ikpeazu.
Those recommended by the judicial body are the Chief Judge of Abia State, Justice Theresa Uzokwe, and Justice Obisike Oji of the Abia State High Court.
NJC Director of Information, Soji Oye, revealed in a statement that the decision was reached on Wednesday at the 85th meeting of the Council in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
The Council explained that Ms Uzokwe’s was put forward for dismissal following the recommendation of two panels that investigated the allegations against her.
It also warned Justice Olusola Williams of the Lagos State High Court for “grave errors of judgment”, and Justice S. E. Aladetoyinbo of the FCT High Court for “impropriety”.
Read the full statement below:
NJC recommends the compulsory retirement of Hon. Mr. Justice Theresa Uzokwe, Chief Judge Abia State and Hon. Justice Obisike Oji of Abia State High Court.
Issues stern warnings to Justices S. E Aladetoyinbo and Olusola Ajibike Williams of FCT and Lagos High Courts.
Sets up Committee to investigate a Supreme Court Justice and two (2) State Chief Judges.
Appoints sixty (60) Judicial Officers for twenty-four (24) States.
The National Judicial Council under the Chairmanship of the Honourable Mr. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, GCON, at its 85th Meeting which was held on the 14th of March 2018, recommended the compulsory retirement of Hon. Mr Justice Theresa Uzokwe, Chief Judge, and Hon. Mr. Justice Obisike Oji of Abia State High Court of Justice, to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State.
The Council also issued stern warnings to Justices S. E. Aladetoyinbo and Olusola Ajibike Williams of the FCT and Lagos State High Courts.
Hon. Mr Justice Theresa Uzokwe was recommended for compulsory retirement following the findings of two investigative committees set up by the Council.
The committees investigated petitions against her by Umeh Kalu, SAN, Attorney-General/Commissioner for Justice of Abia State, alleging illegal constitution and working with a parallel Judicial Service Commission instead of the one constituted by the State Governor and confirmed by the House of Assembly.
Hon. Mr Justice Uzokwe was also found to have misconducted himself in Suit No. HU/131/2005, wherein he delivered judgement in the sum of N825, 000 (Eight Hundred and Twenty-Five Thousand Naira) only in favour of a Litigant, but subsequently signed a garnishee order of N109, 612, 500 (One Hundred and Nine Million, Six Hundred and Twelve Thousand, Five Hundred Naira) only.
Hon. Mr Justice Obisike Oji was earlier queried by the Council for allowing himself to be sworn-in as acting Chief Judge, and thereby colluding in, and aiding an unconstitutional process. His reply was unsatisfactory, and the Council recommended his compulsory retirement.
The NJC reprimanded, seriously warned and placed on the Watch List Hon Justice S. E. Aladetoyinbo of the FCT High Court for impropriety in a case between U.L.O. Consultants Ltd v BIL Construction Nigeria Ltd, sequel to a petition by one Uche Luke Okpuno. Council would have sanctioned the Judge more severely but had to take into account the fact that aspects of the case are appealable.
Council also seriously warned Hon Justice Olusola Ajibike Williams of the Lagos State High Court for grave errors of judgment in her level of involvement in a family business. Council found that the Judge, as a judicial officer, should have been more circumspect and conscious of her office. Council’s sanction was as a result of a petition by Chief Ladi Rotimi-Williams, SAN.
Council at the Meeting also considered various petitions written against thirty-one (31) Judicial Officers and resolved to empanel three (3) Investigative Committees against one Justice of Supreme Court and two (2) State Chief Judges.
Petitions against various Justices were dismissed either for lack of merit, lack of evidence of misconduct, being sub judice or that the subjects of such petitions were matters for appeal.
The dismissed petitions were against Hon. Mr. Justices Abdu Aboki, Theresa Abadua and Ahmed Belgore all of the Court of Appeal; Hon. Mr. Justices J. T. Tsoho, Ayo Emmanuel, Sabiu Yahusa, Zainab B. Abubakar, B. O. Quadri of the Federal High Court; Hon. Mr. Justices A. N. Ubaka and B. B. Kanyip of National Industrial Court; Hon. Mr. Justices Bello Kawu, S. C. Orji, A. N. Talba of the FCT High Court; Hon. Mr. Justice K. C. Nwankpa of High Court Abia State; Hon. Mr. Justice D. A. Onyefulu of High Court Anambra State; Hon. Mr. Justice W. I. A. Effiong High Court Akwa-Ibom State; A. M. Ikpambese, High Court Benue State; Hon. Mr. Justice G. E. Gbemre, High Court Delta State; Hon. Mr. Justice A. O. Onovo, High Court Enugu State; Hon. Mr. Justice Idi Apollos, High Court Gombe State; Hon. Mr. Justice G. O. Ogunsanya, High Court Ogun State; Hon. Mr. Justice A. B. Abdulkarim, High Court Osun State; Hon. Mr. Justice K. A. Ojiako, High Court Imo State and Hon. Mr Justices A. M. Lawal, L. A. Okunnu and L. B. Lawal Akapo, High Court Lagos State.
Council decided to advise Hon. Mr. Justice J. E. Ikede of Delta State High Court and Hon. Mr. Justice Yusuf Halilu of FCT High Court to be more careful in the course of their judicial duties.
Council decided to refer a petition by Prince Adesina Okuneye against Hon. Mr. Justice Mwada Balami of the FCT High Court to the Police to investigate the allegation of N5, 000,000 (Five Million Naira) bribe to the Judge for granting bail to an accused person. Council decided that the petition should be put in abeyance until the outcome of the investigation by the Police.
Council at the Meeting also recommended sixty (60) Judicial Officers to Governors of twenty-four (24) for appointment as High Court Judges, Sharia Court Kadis and Customary Court of Appeal Judges.
The Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, has advocated for special remuneration for judges in the Nigeria to lessen the incidence of material and financial inducement of the course of justice dispensation.
Ajimobi said the Federal and state governments should review judges’ remuneration to avert what he called ‘travesty of justice,’ which, according to him, had stained the country’s judiciary.
The governor, who was represented by his Deputy, Chief Moses Adeyemo, when receiving national officers of the Magistrates Association of Nigeria (MAN), at the Executive Council Chambers of the Governor’s Office, in Ibadan, said judges deserve to be renumerated with necessary logistic support.
Ajimobi said, “Our judges deserve to be specially remunerated with necessary logistics supports because of their special roles and responsibilities. This is a sure way of committing them to dispense justice as it ought to be.
“If we fail to provide the best pay package for the judges, then we have no moral right to demand fairness from them. I urge the Federal Government to immediately look into the judges’ remuneration and effect appropriate changes.
“Judges are human beings who are susceptible to corruption just like those in other sectors and disciplines. With the humongous slush fund in circulation and the desperation of looters to enjoy their loot unhindered, it only takes a conscionable judge to resist the tempting aroma of inducement.”
The governor also admonished judges to always ensure that their pronouncements and sentencing are commensurate with offences committed, warning that a slap on the wrist would embolden criminals to remain incorrigible.
“Most judgments don’t correlate with the offences that called for them. Some judges would rather consider their biases and disposition to either of the two sides in a matter before arriving at their judgments.
“If a light punishment is given to an accused who commits a great offence that is a travesty of justice. Our judges must always do the needful and resist activities capable of tainting their names and the temple of justice,” he said.
The National Judicial Council has commenced the probe of two chief judges and 13 other judges after various allegations were levelled against them.
Fifteen committees are investigating the allegations which were made in petitions sent to the NJC, a statement signed by the Council’s Director of Information, Soji Oye, for the Secretary, said.
According to it, the NJC which is Chaired by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen, set up the committees at its 83rd Meeting.
“Council took the decision after considering the reports of the two preliminary complaints assessment committees, on 46 petitions written against judicial officers in the federal and state judiciaries,” the statement said.
The statement did not, however, disclose the name of the judges being investigated neither did it contain details of the allegation against them.
Out of the petitions, 31 were dismissed. Of the 31, 29 petitions were found to be unmeritorious, while the remaining two, written against Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court and Justice O. O. Akeredolu who is the Acting Chief Judge of Ondo State, were withdrawn by the petitioners.
Al-Sagr National Insurance Company who wrote against Justice Tsoho withdrew his petition since the judge had delivered the ruling in his case, while Chief Raheem Badmus who wrote against Justice Akeredolu also voluntarily withdrew his petition for personal reasons.
“Council treated the two petitions as withdrawn since it did not find anything in them sufficiently serious for further consideration as stipulated in Regulation 9 (1) of the Judicial Discipline Regulations,” the NJC said.