Why three arms of government should operate independently
It is for no reason that this court has not had more than two occasions when its judges have retired having regard to the nearly 50 years of the existence of the Sokoto State judiciary, but rather due to inexplicable reluctance by persons hitherto in charge of affairs to provide such a forum for stakeholders to interact as we are doing today.
The place and importance of special court or valedictory court sessions in the legal profession or administration can hardly be over emphasized.
It is meant to honor and celebrate members of this honorable and noble profession who have distinguished themselves creditably and by so doing encouraged others to emulate and excel as well.
It also provides opportunity for retrospection and stock taking by all stakeholders in the legal profession. It is such retrospection or self assessment/examination that allows stakeholders to tell themselves the bitter truth and offer lasting solutions to perceived problems before ever a third party get to notice and feel called upon to intervene.
I would like therefore to use this opportunity to commend this new development under our brand new Hon. Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Bello Abbas. I also appeal that such would be a more regular feature in this jurisdiction, including the resuscitation of the observance of the traditional legal year, which provides the judiciary opportunity to create awareness for its activities.
Having said that, I shall now focus on our primary purpose for gathering here today .i.e. Hon. Justice Danlami B. Sambo. First and foremost, I thank the Almighty Allah for the privilege of having Justice Danlami B. Sambo in our fold. I recall my first contact with His Lordship who was then appearing before the High Court presided over by late Hon. Justice Jean Omokri of blessed memory, while I was under going Court attachment as part of my law school requirements for call to the Bar.
My lord was then occupying the office of the Director of Public Prosecution in the Ministry of Justice. I was instantly taken in by the confident and measured or deliberate manner my lord chose his words and delivered his address in a most clear and humble way without compromising the strength or force behind it. From that day I decided to watch my lord very closely and learn as much of the legal profession as I could from such a person.
A year later, I joined my lord in the Attorney General’s Chambers and had the privilege of learning the rudiments of the law alongside some other colleagues, including but not limited to Hon. Justices Muhammad Sa’idu Sifawa, Malami Umar Dogondaji, late A. B. Iliyasu, former A.G. Zamfara State and the present Solicitor General Ministry of Justice Sokoto State, Kabiru I. Ahmed. Without fear of contradiction, I confess that my humble self and Kabiru I. Ahmed were my lord’s favorite juniors.
One important virtue of his lordship was his concern for the welfare and comfort of his juniors. He showed a lot of concern on both official and personal matters, which provided great motivation for us. He was consultative in all matters that were before him when he was DPP. He never neglected the contribution of juniors. For us, as much as I could remember, in all assignments given to us as his juniors my lord ensured not only that we were properly guided, but patiently listened to and accepted our arguments where he found them to be superior. He was never involved in any power tussle or conflict with his brother Directors. He was very diligent and hard working. The only competition he ever engaged in was between him and late Amina Bello, when she was Director Legal Drafting, as to who was earlier to office and closes much late.
I must stress here that another virtue I learnt from Justice Sambo was his sense of delegation of authority and functions. Almost every counsel in the Ministry of Justice then, including those attached to other departments were assigned criminal cases for either advice or prosecution. He was the strongest link in bringing counsel in the Ministry together.
Justice Sambo’s maturity and perseverance came to fore in an interegnum that occurred when Zamfara State was created in October 1996.
My lord then faced so much harassment and undue pressures to vacate the office of the DPP to the extent that he was made to be redundant in attempt to frustrate him out of office. But my lord true to his honorable and gentle nature refused to be provoked. As almighty Allah would have it, his patience bore fruit when on 7th of January 1997 he got appointed to the bench as a justice of the High Court of Sokoto State, which he is now leaving after 20 years of meritorious and unblemished service.
Though Justice D. B. Sambo hails from Kwoi in Jaba Local Government Area of Kaduna State, he spent 54 of his 65 years in Sokoto State. Out of the said 54 years my lord had spent 45 serving the State of Sokoto. I am sure since his lordship is endowed with good health and remains very much sound upstairs, he will be very much available to continue to contribute to this profession and in many other respect for the benefit of humanity.
My lords, learned colleagues and friends, may I crave your indulgence to seize this rare opportunity to make a comment on a topical national issue that affects the judiciary and by extension the legal profession.
Recent events in the judiciary have caused a lot of concern over the sustainability of the interrelationship between the three arms of government in our democratic dispensation. The tripartite structure of government and the principle of separation of powers are critical components of democratic governance meant to optimize the main objectives of democracy as well as to preserve and protect the respective independence and role of each arm of government and avoidance of concentration of powers in one hand with the attendant tendency to corrupt and abuse.
By implication, the three arms of government should function and exercise their independence with due respect for their mutual responsibility to maintain and sustain democracy in the overall interest of the citizenry.
Each arm of government has internal mechanism which draws strength or authority from the 1999 Constitution, as amended for ensuring efficient administration and performance anchored on time-honored ethics, standards, procedures, rules and regulations also adopted in furtherance of the vision and mission of each. The unavoidable human and institutional lapses of each and all arms of government have been routinely resolved with mutual interest and fixed focus on sustainable governance for the good of all. With the required sense of purpose and spirit of goodwill prevailing among their respective operators, the tripartite constitutional arrangement has performed creditably well in the sustenance of democratic governance for thus far despite human imperfections.
It must be emphasized however that the greatest challenge facing the constitutional tripartite arrangement between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary is posed by the management or mismanagement of the unavoidable lapses and discrepancies that may sometimes occur in the course governance. The administrative procedures, regulations and main objectives of the constitutional tripartite arrangement can be jeopardized by improper management of unfavorable fall-outs from operations of the respective arms.
Such jeopardy is bound to have grave consequences thereby constituting a veritable threat to the sustenance of constitutional democracy. Sustenance of democratic governance remains the non-negotiable responsibility of the operators of the three arms of government in the discharge of their duties and exercise of powers at all times.
In order to maintain sanity and harmony in their operations, it is envisaged that the duties and powers of each arm are limited by the duties and powers of the others in accordance to the letter and spirit of the principle of separation of powers and mutual independence. Here lies the panacea for a virile tripartite constitutional arrangement of the three arms of government powering sustainable democratic good governance.
These submissions are made more relevant and timely in the aftermath of the unfortunate circumstances which the Judiciary has been placed by the exposure and prosecution of a few judges in its top echelons for alleged involvement with corruption. There can be no defense or rationale for corruption anywhere, especially in the judicial arm of government where judges, like Ceaser’s wife must always be seen to be above board.
Unpalatable or unpleasant as these developments have been, I see the whole thing as yet an opportunity for the judiciary and its regulatory bodies like the National Judicial Council (NJC), Federal Judicial Council (FJC), State Judicial Councils, etc. to take more decisive and urgent steps to cleanse the judicial stable and by so doing prevent further occurrence. This is in addition to other legal/constitutional measures that may be available and explored by all arms of government.
Abdul- Kadir, a former Minister and a Life Bencher of NBA, delivered the speech on the occasion of the Special Session of the Sokoto High Court in honour of the retired Justice Danlami Bawa Sambo.