The Supreme Court of Nigeria, in many ways, in attributes and qualities, is similar to the Supreme Court of the United States. It is the final adjudicating power or arbiter of all legal matters in Nigeria. The Supreme Court of Nigeria has an unfettered power!
For lawyers, the Supreme Court is therefore, what St. Peters Basilica is to devout Catholics! The Supreme Court is to lawyers what Mecca is to devout Muslims! The Supreme Court is revered and held sacred by all lawyers and I suppose, by all citizens as well. In essence, the Supreme Court is the ultimate in legal matters in Nigeria.
As a Nigerian citizen and lawyer, I must confess that I hold the Supreme Court of Nigeria in awe! I owe it all the respect as a citizen of Nigeria. I trust the Supreme Court of Nigeria additionally, because it boasts of my former law teacher, Professor Niki Tobi, formerly the Dean of the University of Maiduguri’s faculty of law and a Deputy Vice Chancellor. Professor Tobi is brilliant law teacher and lawyer. He represents towering excellence! He is a man of spotless character and unblemished integrity!
In the interest of full disclosure, Professor Niki Tobi made it possible for me to study law. I was bound to spend the rest of my life as an economist, perhaps with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Professor Tobi’s presence among the current justices of the Nigeria Supreme Court makes it a zillion times more difficult for me to criticize the soundness of the justices’ legal reasoning and conclusions! Let alone impugn the integrity of the members of Nigeria’s auspicious judicial institution.
Criticizing and faulting the recent judgments of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, I must do!
I have agonized about two recent decisions by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, first, that Atiku MUST be on the ballot! And it was one week to the elections! I felt that the Supreme Court of Nigeria appeared to have pandered to the public, pandered to the press and pandered to the political opposition! I thought that the Supreme Court of Nigeria would and should have abstained or reserved its decision on Atiku. The second case, is the one in which, the court is returning Joshua Chibi Dariye to Government House, Ray-Field, Jos in Plateau State! Why would the Supreme Court of Nigeria assist a known outlaw, to benefit from his crime? Why would the Supreme Court aid and abet Mr. Dariye in thumbing his nose at Nigerian laws and Nigerian people? This, despite Mr. Dariye’s known despicable and indecent behavior in London England? I quite understand that our court are required to deal with the cases before it, and that our courts are not required to take judicial notice of legal matters pending against Mr. Dariye in England. But all Nigerians and in fact, the whole world is aware of Mr. Dariye’s transgressions in the UK!
I am of course also aware that section 308 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, confers immunity from prosecution, on certain public officials in Nigeria. The Supreme Court is however aware that there were attempts to bring Mr. Dariye to justice, in Kaduna, by the EFCC. The EFCC complied with the rule of law, due process with fair hearing and all. It is the case that Mr. Dariye stole, pillaged and plundered Plateau State treasury with impunity, hiding under the cover of constitutional immunity. While he used and abused it as a cloak and a shield. He used and abused legal processes in Jos, Kaduna and now, Abuja! Mr. Dariye ought to have been damned by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
But instead, the Supreme Court Justices, became activists, flame-throwing aggressive political activists! They became what one might call legislators; legislative acts in their judicial activism! Neither Mr. Atiku nor Mr. Dariye was facing the death penalty! Why did the Supreme Court feel compelled to undertake extraordinary processes of accelerated hearings in some of these political matters?
Why did the Supreme Court of Nigeria fail to consider the national security implications of their decisions in these matters? Such as the risk of producing a deadlock or an impasse in the just concluded national election, because of Atiku? Why was Atiku’s “right” to be on the ballot, surpass and trumped the collective interests of 140 million Nigerians?
Why did the Supreme Court of Nigeria not consider the logistical nightmare that their decision would induce? Such as having to reprint and distribute millions of ballot papers, with Atiku’s name and picture on them? Why did the Supreme Court of Nigeria not consider the costs in money, materials and just logistics that INEC would be ensnared? A reading of some South African newspapers revealed last week, that some companies in South Africa contacted by Nigeria, to print elections materials, actually rejected such contract offers, due to the break neck speed the printing job required. The size and magnitude of the printing job was enormous! INEC and its printers had an unreasonable time constraints imposed on it by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in its efforts to please one man! Mr. Atiku!
Why would the Supreme Court of Nigeria become motivated and so moved, to engage in such speedy efforts? It was as if, the court was flexing its legal muscles as the justices decided, and agreed among themselves, and said, lets accelerated hearing this and that? Why would the Supreme Court engaged in acts or pronouncements to hurry the High Courts and to hurry the Courts of Appeal over these high profile political cases, and in particular, the Atiku cases?
Why did the Supreme Court of Nigeria behaved as if, it had a stake in the outcome of the Atiku cases? To the extent, that the Supreme Court was issuing letters, press statements and creating the appearance of pressuring lower courts over matters before lower courts, even before it was ripe for the Supreme Court? This is worrisome, especially, in the face of recent or not too distant history of accusations or allegations against some justices over “gifts” of cars etc. We have heard that President Obasanjo is a tight wad, while Mr. Atiku is a big spender, and Atiku gets, what Atiku wants?