An Address by Yunus Ustaz Usman (S.A.N) on the occasion of the valedictory court session

0
118

in honor of:

Hon. Justice M. L. Muhammed;
Hon. Justice G. I. Kurada; and
Hon. Justice L. D. Aba.

by:

YUNUS USTAZ USMAN (SAN), ASIWAJU ODO ILE YORUBA
ACIArb (UK),
FCIDA (GHANA),
INTEGRITY AMBASSADOR, GHANA,
EZIENYI NDI IGBO I,
ASIWAJU ODO ILE YORUBA

ON THE 10TH DAY OF JANUARY, 2022, AT THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE MAIN COMPLEX BIDA ROAD, KADUNA, KADUNA STATE.

INTRODUCTION

My lord, the Chief Judge of Kaduna State Judiciary, Honorable Judges of the High Court of Kaduna State, President Customary Court of Appeal Kaduna State, Grand Khadi of Shariah Court Appeal Kaduna State, Honourable Khadis, Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Kaduna State, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, my Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen. All other protocols duly and adequately observed.

It is an extreme Honor for the chief Judge of Kaduna state to invite a little fry such as I to deliver a speech at the valedictory session in honour of three of the best brains, who have just bowed out of the Judiciary upon the attainment of the statutory age of 65 years.

THE LITTLE I KNOW ABOUT JUSTICE M. L. MUHAMMED

My little knowledge of Hon. Justice Mairo Muhammad is limited to the Court room. She is friendly, yet a non-nonsense Margaret Thatcher. She abhors lawyers’ delaying tactics. All my efforts to have judgments delivered by her against me set aside have so far failed.

THE LITTLE I KNOW ABOUT JUSTICE G. I. KURADA.

He was my classmate in the Faculty of Law, ABU Zaria, from 1979-1982. He was my classmate in the Law School from 1982-July, 1983. He has at all the time I had known him to be too quiet, too honest and too minding-his-own-business. He was not one of those who always slept in the library yet he, unlike me, came among those on top of the class in every sessional examination. To confirm my humble opinion of this legal judicial star, his decision in El-Zakzaky has ratified the fact that Kaduna State Judiciary is a totally independent judiciary. I do not know between me and Kurada, who has tampered with his age. It seems he has increased his while I might have reduced mine by a year.

THE LITTLE I KNOW ABOUT JUSTICE L. D. ABA.

Justice L. D. Aba and I have practised in Kaduna State for long and I know him to be an impressive person who has at all times impressed me in his practice and as a legal judicial star.

RETIREMENT AGE OF JUDGES

A judicial officer who is a workaholic may not find it easy long once he is out of his erstwhile busy schedule unless he can be kept busy by part-time appointments. The first question to ask is this: why do we even have retirement age for judges? My little experience which is in litigation from 1983 to date is that the older a judge is on the Bench, the more experienced, more tolerant and more just he is. In America whose judicial system we are blindly following, judges have no retirement age. Thus, Article III Sec. 1 of the United States of America Constitution reads:

“ARTICLE III
SEC. 1 – The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may, from time to time, ordain and establish. THE JUDGES, BOTH OF THE SUPREME AND INFERIOR COURTS, SHALL HOLD THEIR OFFICES DURING GOOD BEHAVIOR; AND SHALL, AT STATED TIMES, RECEIVE FOR THEIR SERVICES, A COMPENSATION, WHICH SHALL NOT BE DIMINISHED DURING THEIR CONTINUANCE IN OFFICE.”
(UNDERLINING MINE FOR EMPHASIS ONLY)

Lord Denning was still sitting at the age of 93 and delivering sound judgments. The first black to grace the American Supreme Court Bench (Lord Marshal) who lived between 1755 – 1835 was a Justice of the Supreme Court from 1801 – 1835 (35 years in the Supreme Court Bench). Uwais and Belgore, Chief Justices of Nigeria who retired some years back ought not to have retired until perhaps now; they are still at their mental alertness than many of us in this hall today who claim to be in the age bracket of 60 years or so. Why did the constitution have to force such best judicial assets out on retirement simply because they were 70 years? The irony of our situation in Nigeria is that we import bad foreign policies and cultures hook, line and sinker and abandon the good ones.

The former South African President De Clark became the Vice-President to Nelson Mandela. Honourable Justices Bubo Ardo and Mamman Nasir voluntarily left the apex court to be chief judges of North Eastern states and Presidents of the Court of Appeal respectively. Honourable Justice Umaru Abdullahi left Court of Appeal to become the Chief Judge of Katsina State just to nurture the newly created Katsina State judiciary then. So, what is wrong in a former judge appearing before other judges as an advocate?

Justice Owen of Plateau State High Court attempted to do so upon his retirement in the 1980s. He was prevented and perhaps, that gave birth to the entrenchment of subsection (2) of Section 256 of the 1979 Constitution and Section 292(2) of the 1999 Constitution both of which provide: –

Section 256 of the 1979 Constitution:

“Any person who has held office as a judicial officer shall not on ceasing to be a judicial officer for any reason whatsoever thereafter appear or act as a legal practitioner before any court of law or tribunal in Nigeria.”

Section 292(2) of the 1999 Constitution:

“Any person who has held office as a judicial officer shall not on ceasing to be a judicial officer for any reason whatsoever thereafter appear or act as a legal practitioner before any court of law or tribunal in Nigeria.”

This is because the 1963 Constitution did not prohibit a retired judicial officer from going back to private legal practice after retirement. It did not even fix any retirement age for judicial officers. It left everything to the legislature. Thus, Section 124 (1) of the 1963 Constitution provides: –

“Subject to the provisions of this section, a person holding or appointed to act in the office of Chief Justice of Lagos or any other judge of the High Court of Lagos shall vacate his office or appointment when he attains such age as may be prescribed by parliament.”

I therefore suggest that Section 291 of the Constitution which forces judicial officers to retire compulsorily at certain ages be deleted. If a judicial officer wants to retire voluntarily, he is free to go.

DISREGARD FOR COURT ORDER AND DISRESPECT FOR JUDICIARY.

The issue of disrespect for court order and the sanctity of the judiciary continue to plague Africa to the extent that if we do not put a full stop to it and immediately too, I fear for the African Race. While a Country can survive without the Executive and Legislature, no country, no country I repeat can survive without a strong, upright and independent Judiciary. I therefore humbly call on the Federal Government to set up Judicial Commission of Enquiry to probe the recent arrest of Sowore inside the Court room and other cases of disobedience to Court orders.

INSECURITY AND KIDNAPPING

Unless our security officers and senior public servants to whom are attached security officers, are prevented from travelling to and fro by rail, it will be difficult to scare kidnappers from operating on these roads at will. The situation as it happened to some of us recently when we could not get tickets because some Senior security officers who came for security meeting in Kaduna the other day had taken over the two first class coaches, makes a mockery of our security system. If these officers go by road, the kidnappers who are naturally not a trainer in the use of arms as these security officers, will be scared from operating at will.

Secondly, the Federal government should also order that in any State where insecurity persists, the security chiefs of those States should be automatically retired. I bet you that with this suggestion, insecurity would come to an end in Nigeria. Any other advice is a mere academic exercise.

Equally, the Emir or District Heads of any area where kidnapping or insecurity occurs should be dethrones as some of these area or village leaders know what and where those wicked criminals are.

2023 GENERAL ELECTION AND THE WELFARE OF JUDICIAL OFFICERS

For those of us who by the grace of God, survive mainly on Election Petitions, the allegations against few judicial officers in election matters have always been terribly embarrassing. According to Mukhtar, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, it is corruption carried out with the active connivance of some senior lawyers, which is trying to erode public confidence in our judicial system. Thus, ALOMA MUKHTAR, CJN, in her Speech at the ABUJA JUDICIAL REFORM CONFERENCE on Tuesday, 8th July, 2014, said:

“Corruption is a cankerworm that has refused to depart. The NJC is doing its best to get rid of it. We receive petitions and we try to hear from both sides. Some judges appear before the NJC with about six SANs. I always say that some of the judges committed the offence in connivance with the SANs who appear with them. Lawyers know the judges that are corrupt and they should do their part to rid the judiciary of corrupt judges.”
(UNDERLINING MINE FOR EMPHASIS ONLY)

This view of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria is now backed up by a recent investigation conducted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, thus:

“…In December 2020, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), reported that “lawyers were mostly responsible for offering bribes for favourable judgments mostly in electoral and political matters.” According to the Commission, between 2018 and 2020, “11 out of the 123 judges surveyed, reported experiencing offers or payment of N3.307 billion and N392.3 million as a bribe”, indicating that buying and selling judges is a highly profitable enterprise. 63 lawyers admitted “to have paid or offered N5.77 billion as a bribe for favourable judgements.” Lawyers who can shell out an average of N91.59 million or nearly $200,000 in bribes per case are neither poor nor junior. Tragically, these crimes will not travel further than the gossip mills of the crooked legal cognoscenti.”

In an Article written by Chidi Anselm Odinkalu titled: “Reclaiming Nigeria’s Judiciary: An Inconvenient Manifesto” of January 9th, 2022, it was reported in one part that:

“Four years later, in 2006, the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC), with the then Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mohammed Lawal Uwais, undertook and issued a report on the Integrity and Capacity of the Justice System in Nigeria. It found that “political influence in the hiring and promotion of judicial officers, prosecutors and court staff was strongly linked to the perceived quality of justice delivery” and concluded that “both the perceptions and experience of the quality of justice delivery can be improved by reducing the importance of political connections and enhancing meritocracy in recruitment, hiring, retention, promotion, retirement and the overall management of staff.”

Some Senior lawyers who are in this bad habit should know that neither those who send them nor even those to whom they are sent will ever have any iota of respect in their inner minds for them.

To stop these ugly embarrassments and allegations, Judicial officers must be adequately remunerated with all their allowances and perquisites of office regularly paid. Most states in Nigeria today are guilty of not paying Judges Salaries and Allowances on time or slashing and paying these allowances in a way the Hausa call it: “Biyan Wulakanci” (payment in such an installment that makes it useless to the payee). It is almost impossible for a hungry man not to be corrupted unless we are not telling ourselves the truth. I have been saying it time without number that our judicial officers have not been adequately taken care of and one cannot discharge his judicial duties without fear or favour on an empty stomach. It is my humble view that a hungry judicial officer may be forced not to have the patience, tolerance and alertness his calling deserves and invariably end up getting angry with inflammable tendencies at the expense of justice. It invariably may lead to the self-same judge or judges of coordinate jurisdiction giving contradictory decisions on similar cases as was witnessed widely in 2015 Election matters. This humble view had been subscribed to by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud, in these words:

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, warned the Judges in his address at the 2015 Annual Conference of the Court of Appeal Justices held in Abuja regarding conflicting judgments delivered by some of the Court of Appeal Justices in these words: –
STOP GIVING CONFLICTING JUDGMENTS
“…My Lords, it bears reminding that the overriding objective of every legal system in the world is to do justice. However, this cannot be achieved where there is confusion as to the state of the law as pronounced by the court.”
“We must not ignore the negative perception that is occasioned by conflicting judgments delivered at various divisions of the Court of Appeal. Such judicial contradictions only result in untold hardships to litigants in their quest for justice. They further cast their lordships in an unfavourable light and leave the judiciary at the mercy of innuendos, crass publications and editorials.”

DIRECT PRIMARIES IN 2023

The most transparent election in recent years was when General Buhari was unequivocally elected in 2015 as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It was perhaps in order to sustain this credo that the National Assembly made an amendment to Section 87 (1) of the Electoral Act to read thus:

“A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Bill shall hold direct primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which shall be monitored by the Commission.”

For him to ensure that the person who succeeds him has that overwhelming and convincing victory like himself, I sincerely advise that he should reconsider his stand in his views against direct primaries. I personally believe that the only way to ensure that the rightful persons are voted into power in 2023 is via direct primaries and allowing private candidature to contest all the elections. The drums of war by politicians are already raining, against particularly, the presidential election in 2023.

I thank you for sincerely for listening.

-Advertisement-

New mag

Newswire Law and Events Magazine is Out. It's a collector's item. Get one - or two,or more - for yourself and loved ones.

Do you want to be heard, your events covered, your articles published, or need to advertise your products and services on our Blog and Magazine, reach out to us at Newswire Law and Events, you will be glad you did. For more details about our services, please call: 08039218044, 09070309355. Email: newswiremagazine@yahoo.co.uk

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here