The Nigeria Christian Graduate fellowship is worried that the Supreme Court of Nigeria is enmeshed in controversies emanating from her controversial decisions in recent times.
If there is any institution that should be immune to controversy, it is the Supreme Court. In every nation the Supreme Court of the land is held in high esteem. It is always the last resort and hope in matters of adjudication over disputes. If things should go haywire in the judicial process, it is expected that the Supreme Court should painstakingly verify every issue with a view to arriving at an incontrovertible position on the matter. If in the process it errs as a human institution, it would be understood that it erred on the path of caution.
Unfortunately, this is not so with the Supreme Court of Nigeria under the present political and judicial leadership of President Muhammad Buhari and Chief Justice Muhammad Ibrahim Tanko respectively.
We are worried that in the present dispensation, the Supreme Court of Nigeria has become notorious in terms of the inconsistency in its judicial pronouncements, its inability to maintain the doctrine of judicial precedence, and its obviously errant interpretation and application of time-honoured judicial and legal maxims.
The Nigeria Christian Graduate fellowship views these developments as threat to the survival of democracy in Nigeria as well as of the nation itself. The reason is that of all the institutions of the society, the Judiciary and, in particular, the Supreme Court holds the ace for resolving and reconciling all matters that threaten the unity and survival of the nation. If there should be a loss of confidence by the people in the ability of the Judiciary, nay, the Supreme Court, to resolve vexing national issues, what would naturally follow is anarchy, as citizens would inevitably resort to self-help.
We are further disturbed by the emerging impression from the Apex Court that there is a deliberate abuse of the position of the “last arbiter”. When an institution knows that it is the final bus stop for all legal disputes and yet whimsically uses that position to serve the primordial interests of certain individuals and groups, that obviously sounds a death knell to the society.
If the Imo governorship tussle had been the first instance where the Supreme Court has aberrantly erred in both law and morality using technicalities and other unknown rules to miscarry justice, we would have pleaded with Nigerians to forgive and give the court the benefit of the doubt. But the Supreme Court under Mr Justice Muhammad Ibrahim Tanko has established a record of anomie in murdering justice. For instance, we recall the Osun State governorship tussle where the Supreme Court relied on technicalities based on the fact that the judge who delivered the lead judgment was absent in one of the court sessions and therefore ought not to have read the judgment agreed by the panel. This was used to rob the true winner of the election of his victory. Still fresh in our memory equally is the 2019 presidential election where the nation was shocked to its marrow as the Supreme Court pronounced judgment while the parties had just adopted their briefs, without having critically looked at the issues canvassed. That action gave out the court as one that had a premeditated judgment written before the briefs were adopted. Though the Court explained its reasons latter, it nevertheless was a clear case of a hatchet job.
In view of the obnoxious records of the Apex Court in recent times, we are of the view that the Imo State matter where the supreme Court set aside all its rules and precedents (including the most recent case regarding Atiku vs Buhari, delivered in October 2019 where it agreed with the Court of Appeal that a litigant should not dump documents on the court without calling witnesses) is one aberration too many, and must not be glossed over by the nation.
If the Court wants us to overlook the issue of dumping documents, what about its mathematical wizardry where figures were awarded that overshot the total number of accredited voters in the election?
From the foregoing, we agree with other well-meaning Nigerians that the Chief Justice of Nigeria should resign from his exalted position for the obvious compromise and partisanship of the Supreme Court. The nation will recall that we had earlier called for the CJN’s resignation over his comment that Muslims have the number to effect the change of the Constitution to favour the entrenchment of Sharia law. We cannot continue to have a CJN that cannot differentiate his office from his partisan interest. We are convinced that judgments coming from the Supreme Court in this regime carry his personal imprimatur, and they all are tinged with partisanship.
Furthermore, our stand is that the aberration called the Supreme Court ruling on the Imo State gubernatorial tussle should not stand, simply on the grounds that the Supreme Court is the final arbiter. Once this does, the nation should expect more of such miscarriages. The fallibility of the Supreme Court of Nigeria must be addressed with a proviso if the Judiciary must maintain its position as the last hope of litigants.
Without prejudice to tradition, we hereby demand a review of the Imo State governorship election as decided by the Supreme Court.
To ensure this, we demand a review of the extant laws that established the National Judicial Council to expunge the provision of the CJN as the chairman of the Council. However, a retired Chief Justice should still be the Chairman of the Council. This has become necessary to ensure that the sitting CJN, who himself has a case to answer, will neither sit in judgment on his own case nor have the privilege of influencing a matter that involves him.
We believe this is the only way the NJC can effectively play its oversight role over the Judiciary and cut the excesses of over-ambitious Chief Justices.
God bless Nigeria.
Prof. Adisa is national president, Nigeria Christian Graduate fellowship while Nwaegeruo is General Secretary.