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Stop night visits to judges’ residences, Supreme Court justice tells government officials

By Joseph Onyekwere (Lagos) and Tina Abeku (Abuja)
05 August 2022   |   2:46 am
Supreme Court Justice, Inyang Okoro, has said the judiciary will only function effectively when it is devoid of state interference, including nocturnal visits to judges’ residences to curry favour.

Judge frowns on flagrant disobedience of court order

Supreme Court Justice, Inyang Okoro, has said the judiciary will only function effectively when it is devoid of state interference, including nocturnal visits to judges’ residences to curry favour.

Okoro disclosed this in Abuja, yesterday, during the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) lecture with the theme: ‘Undermining Judicial Authority in a Democracy: Causes, Consequences and Solutions.

Warning that the trend, if unchecked, could push the country into anarchy, he said: “An allegation that a judge is incompetent, on account of conflict of interest, bribery or lack of technical skills and capacity, will erode the confidence of the citizenry in the judiciary as the bastion of democracy and the rule of law.

“And a sure way the judiciary can discharge its responsibility without fear or favour is when it is truly independent, as one of the arms of government. This also means that government officials should not visit judges in their residences at night to solicit favours. Courts should be free from all outside interferences in the discharge of their onerous tasks. They should stop threatening and disparaging judges who refuse to do their bidding.”

Speaking on issues affecting the law profession, NBA National President, Olumide Akpata, said SPIDEL is pivotal to upholding justice for the common man and the struggle to rise against coercion and threats to lawyers.

He decried the invasion of the residence of now-retired Justice Mary Odili, the ongoing strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and various instances of harassment and unlawful detention of Nigerians, including legal practitioners, by law enforcement agencies.

This came as Justice Rabi Gwandu of the National Industrial Court (NIC), sitting in Lagos, yesterday, frowned at flagrant disobedience of her order, which restrained the Trade Union Congress (TUC) from holding its 12th triennial delegates’ conference, pending hearing and determination of the substantive suit before the court.

The judge scolded lawyers and parties involved and warned that disobedience to court erodes confidence in the judicial system.

The court had, at the last sitting, restrained TUC from holding the conference or taking any further steps to hold it, but the union went ahead on July 19 and 20, 2022.

Gwandu made the order in a suit filed by the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) and nine other associations against TUC.

However, TUC claimed that the decision to hold the conference was hinged on another order of the court issued by Justice O.A Obaseki Osaghae of NIC Abuja.

When the matter came up yesterday, the claimants’ counsel, Timothy Adewale, informed the court of disobedience to the order, saying he had filed an application for contempt against the defendants.

According to him, the order stopped the defendants from holding the conference or doing anything whatsoever on the subject matter of the case until the determination of the substantive suit was clear and unambiguous.

He said he was shocked that despite the order, the defendants went ahead to hold the conference.

He urged the court to hear the application, adding that unless the defendants obeyed the order, they would be guilty of contempt.

However, counsel to TUC, Sola Iji, told the court that the first defendant’s, (TUC) decision to proceed with the conference was based on an order by the NIC, Abuja.

He said the court directed that the conference should hold in line with provision of the existing constitution.

But Gwandu said she would get to the root of the matter and adjourned the suit till August 24 to rule on applications of those that applied to be joined as parties in the suit.