Legal Nigeria

‘Judiciary victim of politicians’ lawlessness’ – Justice Buba

Nigerians have been urged to blame the current disorderliness in the nation’s polity on the politicians who have refused to play by the rules.

Justice Ibrahim Buba, a retired judge of the Federal High Court, argued that the Judiciary is even a victim of the politicians who have consistently trampled on its right to independence.

Justice Bubba spoke in Abuja on Friday while delivering a keynote address at a function conference organised by a group, Tap Initiative, with support from the Open Society Funds.

The event has as its theme: “Judicial accountability: Impact on democracy resilience; public trust on the legal system.”

Justice Buba said: “No amount of judicial activism by the judges can better society if the political class are not willing to play by the rules of the game, according to the constitution of their parties enacted by them and given to themselves, a fotiori the constitution of Nigeria.

“Obedience to court orders is sine qua non to order and good governance, if judgments of courts and court orders go forth without respect and come back without effect, society and by extension democracy will be endangered.

“Never in the history of Nigeria are the courts so inundated with pre-election matters and election petitions, as under the current dispensations, if politics are not played by the rules an ordinary matters that should not come to courts finds their way in court, the unwilling actors under the disguise of settling disputes could also want to rubbish the courts.

“If we play politics of development, politics of advancement we will not waste resources in an inter-party fight, election petitions and by extension, dragging the Judiciary in the mud of the conflict of do or die, we will be better off.

 “Our experience has shown that there are no other areas of litigation that drag the judiciary into the conflict and try to splash mud on the judiciary than the political cases.

“In the three arms of government, it is only the judiciary that has stringent conditions of qualification. Our judges must have a minimum of 10 years post call to be appointed a judge of a high court, while a school certificate whether pass or fail or its equivalent can attain offices in the other arms of government,” Justice Buba said.

Citing past instances of attempts to subjugate the Judiciary both under military and democratic dispensations, Justice Buba said the third arm of government deserves more praise than vilification.

He noted that “politicians and political actors, who cannot have their way undermine the independence of the Nigerian judiciary, not only starving it of funds but ensuring an erosion of the independence of the judiciary and having friction and try to remove the chief judges unconstitutionally.

“Even agencies of government who cannot have their ways would want to have their judges and their courts, so as to act ultra vires their statutory powers and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The Nigerian judiciary is undoubtedly is being overworked by politicians to sustain democracy, it is very easy for an outsider not to see the ‘cow’ on the head of the politician and political class, to quickly see the ‘lice’ on the head of the judiciary.”

Justice Buba stressed the need for the Judiciary to assert its independence and stop the practice of depending on the other arms of government for its operations.

“Members of the legal profession and our legal system must note that we are in the 21st century, and therefore the Constitution has guaranteed the independence of the Judiciary, and no Judiciary, whether state or federal, should go cap in hand begging for funding.

“We have advanced so much in information technology and artificial intelligence and we are not in the 50s or 60s where judges are recording in record books and long hands and lose sheets of papers, courts like banks must be computerized, cases must be electronically managed.”

Justice Buba said from his experience, as a widely travelled jurist, the Nigerian Judiciary and the justice system remain one of the best in the world despite the challenges and criticism they have been subjected to.

“Being at home, you may think the food of your mum is not sweet and the one cooked outside may be better, again and again, having regards to the conditions and environment of work.

“With all modesty, I say kudos to the Nigerian bar and the Nigerian bench, take away politics, where people differ on opinions and questions of law and both may be right, the Nigerian judiciary has given a very good account of itself.”

Justice Buba faulted the implant that judges were facilitating the appointment of the relatives and children into the bench, arguing that there was nothing unusual about it.

Citing the example of the United States where a father and son have been Presidents, Justice Buba argued that emphasis should be on competence and not undue sentiment.

The jurist argued that judges and lawyers could no longer stand aloof, but should be involved in efforts to reform the society.

“The Judiciary is part and parcel of the society, when the other arms of government are busy altering the constitution to get provisions on electoral matters, members of the legal profession should be interested in also amending the law, to repeal dead laws and laws that are not making the working of the judiciary possible.

“It is only in that way that the legal system in your jurisdiction would be respected, will be certain, and anybody coming to do business with us should know the law in our jurisdiction and be certain of the result and how long it will take the case to finish,” Justice Buba said.

The Executive Director of Tap Initiative, Martins Obono said the conference was intended to allow for a closer examination of the question of judicial accountability and how to improve public confidence in the Judiciary.

Source: The Nation