LEGAL IDEAS FORUM

OPINION BY OGBU SOLOMON EKEOMA-NIGERIA JUDICIARY: MATTERS ARISING

Anchor: There is this popular parlance that Law has no emotion. Don’t you think emotions should be aroused sometimes? like in the pronouncement of judgement, the purge of corporal punishments in the Nigerian Legal System.I trust you could vividly recall that this actually brought controversy during the recent judgement of Maryam Sanda.

Ogbu Solomon: Thanks for the question. One of the things I’ve come to understand about the practice of law and dispensing of Justice is that a lot of things come to play. For persons like the great jurist, Justice Holmes who believed that law is the prophecies of what the court will say and nothing more pretentious. It brings in a lot of thought.
Law as it is, should be applied without favour or fear. And for some who are abreast with Austin, the V
Command Theory favours this. To this end, law is not wholesomely applied literally by the Judges. Inasmuch we’d love to argue that Law is Law and must be applied as it is, the Realist school of thought will always come to play.
Emotions and other factors to an extent forms part of the Judges’ judgment. So I won’t rule out emotion as not being part of the factors that shapes a Judge’s mind in giving out judgment, neither will I also say that emotion is not a factor to be considered by the Judges. I mean, the Judges are not robots.
As regards the case of Maryam, the court actually applied the provisional of section 319 of the Criminal Code (applicable to the southern Nigeria) which provides that the punishment for murder is death, which is a corporal punishment. Emotions do not hold sway once one is convicted of murder. I believe it should before the conviction.
Hence, as the call for corporal punishment to be purged vis-a-vis Maryam’s case. Death penalty is not one which is being dished out to those who were sentenced to death… As a matter of fact, humans no longer support death as a deterence to offences of murder. Only 2 Governors since 1999 had signed the death warrant of those convicted by the court. Those are Shekerau of Kano in 2006 and Oshiomhole of Edo in 2016.
Empathy should always go with death sentences, but the law remains the law, and should be carried out. Although, in Nigeria, those who are sentenced don’t get themselves ferried to the underworld by hangmen.
Anchor: Many cried foul after the erudite,Justice Mary Odili delivered his judgement in respect to Bayelsa gubernatorial election,so as a Legal Luminary, Do you think that there was an anomaly of justice in that particular judgement?
Ogbu Solomon: Election matters are always filled with emotions. And no matter how good or sound the reason for the judgment is, people will still cry foul. Especially those who the odds did not favour.
For me, the judgment of the court is predicted on section 182(1)(I) of the 1999 CFRN. Matters of forgery as it pertains registration at INEC is fundamental, and treated as such in the eyes of the law. It was the convention of the PDP that the Deputy Governor-Elect was not eligible to contend for the November 2019 polls, as he forged his results and went contrary to the spirit of that provision in the Constitution. And we all know that any law inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is to the extent of its inconsistency, null and void. Hence, the judgment.
The court of the view that the ticket of the Governor-Elect and his deputy is one.Hence, anything affecting one affects the other. Therefore, the defect in the Deputy Governor-Elect affected the while ticket of the both. That was the reason for that judgment.
Empathy aside, the law has to be obeyed, and matters of election always elicit emotions. That judgment is correct. Although it went contrary to the societal policies and believe which gave them that confidence they reposed on the APC candidate. However, the law has to be applied as it is. The only anomaly is based on the views of the common Bayelsan, which holds little or no water in the eyes of the law. That’s section 1(3) of the 1999 CFRN.
Anchor: What do you have to say about the rampant infringement of court orders lately?
Ogbu Solomon: It is quite unfortunate that the order of a court of competent jurisdiction in a democratic setting is flouted by the Executive. It was like child’s play when the PMB’s administration started with flouting such orders and hiding under the veil of national security. Even during the military era, persons like Fawehinmi and Falana* were saved through court orders, when they’re arrested and detained by the military junta.
It was like a joke to us, when the Executive cannot obey the order of the court on the bail of Dasuki, Kanu, Sowere and others. All mostly based on being threats to national security. PMB even had the face to say that rule of law comes after national security (so shameful).
I believe that the reason why these infringements hold sway is because judicial activism to an extent is dead in our Legal system. The case of Military Gov of Lagos v Ojukwu is one of those cases where the court showcased judicial activism at its highest peak. These days, our judges are passive towards cases concerning the citizens.
Inasmuch I won’t blame the Judiciary, the Executive is saddled with the responsibility of carrying out the orders of the court. But my conviction is that if the judiciary will always refuse the needs of the Executive in court, then they will sit up in upholding the orders of the court. I’ll end by saying that he who pays the Piper dictates the tune. I know we’ll apply it well.
Anchor: Do you think that the popular parlance, “The Judiciary is the last hope of common man is still an effective statement considering recent events in the Judiciary”?
Ogbu Solomon: Phew! That statement is becoming extinct, or rather one which serves as a history sentence used in teaching government in Secondary schools. There are lots of things that come to mind when one hears that.
The court, the lawyers and the common man. The average Nigerian out there believes that once any matter gets to the court, there rarely will be justice for such person. The parlance actually still hold sway but in it’s lowest ebb. There are lots of technicalities associated with the practice of Law. And it’s painful when Lawyers dwell on such technicalities in stalling the machinery of Justice in Nigeria. On the other hand too, we also see the high-handedness of our overzealous security machinery on infringing and breach of human right of citizens.
The security ‘guys’ go Scot free upon trampling on the common man’s rights, the rich and well placed individuals get things done for them, without regard or recourse made to the Law. These little things muddle up to become clog in the wheel of dispensing justice to the common man whose rights have been violated.
I must as well commend the courts in cases of enforcement of human rights, for giving expeditious and accelerated hearing, however, more need to be done to bring back the glory associated with that parlance. As noted earlier, that parlance has become another Nigerian parlance not effective! God will help us all. I believe the courts and the officers of the law and ministers of the temple of Justice will do well in giving their best to salvaging this sorry and pitiable state our Judiciary is in at the moment!
About the author
Ogbu Solomon Ekeoma is a law student of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, he is an avid legal author and writer. 
For knowledge and Justice

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