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 judgements,the purge of corporal punishment and in the Nigerian legal system.This actually brought controversy during the recent judgement of Maryam Sanda.
Akinsola Pelumi: A supreme court justice of the USA, Sonia Sotomayor once said that “judges cannot rely on what’s in the heart, its not the heart that compels conclusions in cases. It’s the law”. Judges are supposed to make reasoned decisions on the facts and the law rather than on the basis of empathy.
Emotions are ubiquitous(everywhere at once), they wash across the human brain like water on a flat rock. Joy,anger,disgust and fear ignite quickly in the mind easily and consume reason. The reach of emotions is also difficult to detect and hard to explain. Imagine a judge putting all these (emotions) into consideration before making judgment, justice will definitely not be served well, it will either be served halfway or not be served at all. We cannot put our justice system at risk by putting emotions into consideration, of course judges are human beings but they have been trained solely just to help us the citizens get the justice we deserve,therefore they should be able to put their emotions aside in deciding cases.
Emotions sometimes can be good or bad, Good in the sense that the judge might have empathy for the litigant and might want to set him free, maybe because of show of serious remorse by the litigant in court and all that, but what if the show of remorse is an act? Just so he can set himself free, so in this kind of situation if the judge puts this into consideration, there won’t be justice because he will be setting a guilty man free all based on “emotions” and not on actual fact and evidence.
Emotions may be bad in the sense that, what if at first glance of the case the judge totally feels the person is guilty? or maybe that kind of case has happened in the past, and then he convicts the person based on “emotions” and not based on the litigant’s defense or evidence.
So in my own opinion with all that has been said, emotions should not be aroused in the pronouncement of judgment.
Also in the case of corporal judgment, in my opinion, I still think emotions shouldn’t be aroused but maybe the punishment should be reduced because I do not believe in “kill and be killed”. I believe in “everybody deserves a second chance, so in using the case of Maryam Sanda as an example, I believe we all are abreast with the fact of the case, I am of the opinion that the judge should not have sentenced her to death by hanging, even though she was found guilty of murder, but maybe she should have been sentenced to a long term imprisonment because like I said earlier everybody deserves a second chance.
Anchor: What do you have to say about the issues of the infringement of court orders becoming rampant lately?
Akinsola Pelumi: The infringement of court orders did not start today, and it can be traced to politics and people getting dissatisfied with the judgment of the court. The constitution in section 4, 5 and 6 clearly creates a distinction between the powers of the arms of government and in reality one arm can not do without the other. The disobedience to court orders is more frequent and obvious on the part of the government. This is seen in the recent case of Sowore, El-Zazaky and Dasuki who were granted bail but refused to be released on reasons best known to the government.
But most of the time, it’s due to executive rascality and show of power, which completely negate the spirit and strict adherence to the doctrine of separation of power and checks and balances in government business and running.
Also we need to look at some frivolous rulings and judgements of some our courts although the executive is not at liberty to disobey but can appeal such a ruling.
In my own opinion, disobedience to an order of court should be seen as an offence directed not against the personality of the judge who made the order, but as a calculated act of subversion in the peace, law and order in the Nigerian society.
Anchor: Do you think that there was an anomaly of justice in the gubernatorial election Judgement of Bayelsa state?
Akinsola Pelumi: The electoral jurisprudence is settled for decades. Now for there to be a valid ticket, both the governorship and deputy governorship candidates sponsored by a political party must be qualified in all ramifications.
As a matter of fact, by section 31 (1) of the electoral act, once a political party submits its list of candidates to INEC in accordance with the statutory stipulations, INEC does not have the power to reject or disqualify candidates for any reason whatsoever. Thus, its expected that the leadership of each political party carries out diligent verification of her candidate’s credentials, apart from integrity and fitness into the manifesto of the party criteria.
Where a political party fails in the screening of the candidates and presents unqualified candidate, the sanction is not only disqualification but penalty of five hundred thousand naira.
In my own opinion I do not think there was an anomaly of justice in the gubernatorial election judgment of Bayelsa state, because the electoral act provides that a gubernatorial candidate must contest along side with his deputy, which is joint ticket, so automatically if the deputy is disqualified for any reason whatsoever the governor too will be disqualified. I know we may be asking the question why should the governor suffer for the wrong done by the deputy but the law is the law and the judge will have to follow, what the law states whether fair or not.
But the question is why is there an inconsistency of the supreme court on the matter of Governor and Deputy vis a vis the Kogi state experience in the case of Faleke, where the court ruled that the deputy cannot take the position of the governor in his demise during the announcement of results and the case of Adamu Muazu of Bauchi state where the court called for re- election.
Although the supreme court judgment is inconsistent in the case of the Bayelsa state gubernatorial election, the supreme court followed the electoral act as amended, the governor and deputy is a joint ticket, what happens to B happens to A. But the anomaly here is the inconsistency of the supreme court to adhere to their former rulings.
Anchor: Do you think that the popular parlance, that the Judiciary is the last hope of common man is still an effective statement considering recent events in the Judiciary?
Akinsola Pelumi: It has been generally accepted that Judiciary is the hope of the common man in any society, including Nigeria. AS a result of this, Nigeria is a democratic society, and the country is operating democracy with constitutional backing. In the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, these facts are explained therein. Therefore the Judiciary in Nigeria is expected to play an impartial role in the discharge of its duties.
More so, these duties must be seen wherever and whenever a Nigerian citizen appears before the legal authority in Nigeria and when this is done, the court or any legal authority in Nigeria must be seen to apply this maxim that the “Judiciary is the last hope of the common man”.
Who then is a “Common Man” as identified by the law? He is someone whose rights have been infringed upon, no matter how highly or lowly placed. This also refers to any citizen that is abused or maltreated at the level of the Judiciary to rescue the “Common Man” and bring out some privileges due to him legally. However, the situation has drastically changed as a result of deficiency or “Non-Chalant attitude of judicial officers in Nigeria. This however must be checked. The Judiciary is the right place where the “common man” takes his/her case to whenever his fundamental human rights are infringed upon as enshrined in chapter 4 of the constitution.
These rights include right to life, Personal-Liberty, freedom of religion, association and fair hearing to mention among others. The performances of the Judiciary in recent past happenings in the system, has made the ordinary Nigerian to begin to have a rethink and doubt the veracity and confidence repose on this important arm of government. It is a common knowledge that the court, being the integral part of the judiciary is where the oppressed takes their cases to for adjudication and for the sake of justice. Judgments in court are important as it interprets the law and applies it appropriately. This is what is expected in an emerging democracy like ours as it is practiced in advanced democracy of the world.
But the common man has to cry and weep just in the attempt to get justice, but in most cases, Justice eludes “Common Man” due to the deficiencies in the judicial system. These deficiencies as earlier mentioned includes corruption and the quest to get wealth of which causes miscarriage of justice. The corruption syndrome has so permeate into the system to the extent that the ordinary citizen finds it difficult to have fair hearing of his case at the court of law. It has become too pronounced that if a citizen is without sufficient money to do the case in court, he may not get justice. This is due to the fact that today, “cases are won by how much one gives out” and not by the merits of evidence adduced. If you don’t have the funds, be sure you would either loose out or get justice denied. This can be seen by the number of inmates in the nation’s Prisons serving various terms, and to crown it all, majority of them are awaiting trials. These awaiting trial cases are of concern as one hears of horrible stories of many of them who are either there for an offence they are allegedly accused of which may not be true, or for the fact that there is nobody to stand up for them or no money to exchange hands. This result in them being thrown behind the bars at various Prison Yards.
The judiciary is supposed to be the last hope of the common man but with lots of flaws in the system, the common man has given up on the judiciary. The judiciary really need to step up on its roles like curb corruption in the system and also stop delay in courts, because justice delayed is justice denied. The judiciary can still be the hope of the common man if it works seriously on its flaws.
About the speaker
Akinsola Pelumi is a law student of the faculty of law, University of Abuja, an avid writer and legal author.
For knowledge and Justice