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‘There is increasing usurpation of judicial independence’


Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami

Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami

Former director-general of Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Prof Epiphany Azinge SAN is of the view that the judiciary has done well in the last one year. He however cautioned that there was increasing usurpation of judicial independence.

His words: “The judiciary has always done well within the limit of their jurisdiction. The only challenge is that we are noticing increasingly the usurpation of judicial independence by the non-compliance with court orders. I want to say that judges are really disturbed about that. No matter what the day holds for us, the rule of law is premised on obedient to court orders.

“No matter what we think about our judiciary, I believe that the fulcrum and the foundation for us to achieve the essence of justice is for us to obey court orders. Over and above that, I think our judges are still doing well. The challenges of fiscal and financial autonomy are still there. I still think, compared to other parts of the world, we have one of the finest judiciary in the world and we must continue to applaud our judges who work tirelessly to ensure that justice is done at all times.”

Chief Robert Clarke SAN
Similarly, Chief Robert Clarke, SAN said the judiciary has done well except for political interference. He called for the establishment of special courts for political cases.

“Except for the political decisions; the conflicting decisions from the court of appeal, the judiciary has done well, taking into consideration numerous litigations arising from election petitions.

“My view is that the judiciary is now an area where political matters are over-crowding other cases arising from other jurisdictions such as admiralty, criminal matters and civil matters. My view is that the judiciary should look inward to see how they can reduce the over concentration to election matters by creating a separate court for election matters so as to allow the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court to do their normal duties in all areas of jurisprudence.

“As far as I am concerned, there are certain incidence relating to one or two criminal cases going on now that will give rise to the question of human rights not being adhered to. But on the general concept of human rights and due process, I think they have not done too badly.

“You know we have the background of corruption and they have to fight it. And in the process of fighting it, many people will feel the method of the judicial process will be a bit too harsh. But I believe, except in the case of Dasuki and one or two other cases, there is really nothing wrong in the approach of this government in handling criminal matters in the court. “We must realize that we are in a critical period, where Nigeria is going bankrupt and they must make sure that all those who have stolen Nigeria’s money must go to court. Sending them to jail alone is not important to us, they really need to be grilled so they can tell where the monies are.

“The most important thing is how we are going to retrieve these monies. And if their rights are being infringed upon, we should not blame the government too much”, he stated.

Adetokunbo Mumini
Also, the Executive Director of Social Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP), Adetokunbo Mumini said he has not seen any interference on the judiciary committed by this present government.

In his view, the judiciary is doing its own thing. “The judiciary is supposed to be independent and doing its own thing. If you are talking about human rights, it must be in observance of the provisions of chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution. I have not seen any deliberate violation of chapter 4 of the Constitution, which dwells on human rights.

“If there is any high-handedness, security agencies are not above the law. Take them up legally and sue for the violation of your fundamental human rights and get judgment against them. It is not the business of the president to tell them how to do their job.

“The problem with Nigerians is that once their rights are violated and they are out of it, they go back to sleep. Things cannot work that way. The price to be paid for liberty and freedom is perpetual vigilance.”

According to him, Nigerians must be ready to enforce their rights at all times. “It is not the president that will come and enforce your rights for you. At least you can still go to court within a period of one year after the violation has occurred according to the provision of the constitution.

“We must learn as Nigerians to stand up against security agencies once they misbehave and take them to court and get correct orders including monetary compensation unless we want the president to be interfering but that is not his job”, he explained.

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