A legal practitioner, Boma Alabi (SAN), in this interview with LESI NWISAGBO, speaks on the issue of conflicting court decisions and the summoning of some chief judges by the Chief Justice of Nigeria

What are the implications of courts of coordinate jurisdictions issuing conflicting decisions?

Generally speaking, courts of coordinate jurisdiction cannot overrule each other. If you are unhappy with anything being done, you appeal to the next level. You cannot have a court of coordinate jurisdiction giving directions over its equal. To that extent, a court of coordinate jurisdiction cannot overrule itself or its equivalent in any state. For the specifics of what has gone on between the political parties, I will not be commenting on those, because I have not seen what they filed. I have not seen if the cases are essentially the same. I have only seen what has been reported in the papers.

However, it is a good sign that the Chief Justice of Nigeria has taken note of these reports and is now investigating what exactly went on to see if there has been any misconduct or inappropriate activity and then, based on the outcome of the investigation, he will know what the next steps will be. I understand from media reports that the Chief Justice of Nigeria has called for the record of proceedings and I think that is appropriate and he will also be meeting the chief judges of the states, who have supervisory authority over the courts.

In the circumstances, who do we blame for these conflicting court decisions?

We will blame litigants in a lot of situations, because if you do not disclose information to the court, the court cannot go and find out information by itself. We as lawyers owe a duty to the courts to bring information that will impact on the judgment or ruling to their attention. So, if there is a case before this judge and you know that there is an identical case somewhere else, it should have been brought to the attention of the court.

ALSO READ  #BBNaija Many rendered homeless as fire razes houses, shops in Makoko

It is best to await the outcome of the investigation of the record of proceedings to know what exactly went on before those courts. Until then, we will not know what information was given to the judges that led to the rulings.

Is there any way that the ugly situation can be prevented in the future?

It can be prevented easily. It is just a question of centralising our reporting and law reports, having it reported in real time and giving the tools to our judiciary to enable the researchers to conduct research and quickly get information. Right now, it is not centralised. Something may be happening in Lagos and someone is sitting as a judge in Abuja, for instance. The ruling or judgment will not be reported in the Federal Capital Territory and the judge may honestly not know that this matter has gone before a judge in Lagos, the same parties and the same matter, except the lawyer or parties bring it to the judge’s attention. That is certainly a step that can be taken to try and avoid such conflicting issues.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria invited the chief judges of states where conflicting rulings have been made. However, some people have said that the chief judges are not the ones directly involved in this situation. How does this trickle down to the judges concerned?

The Chief Judge has a supervisory role in the state. He is the head of the courts in that state. Therefore, he is the appropriate person to be summoned by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, who will not interface directly with the judges, but rather with the head of their courts to say exactly what is going on in their jurisdiction and he has to respond to that by making his own enquiries. Ultimately, the judges may face individual disciplinary proceedings if a prima facie case is established against them. The chief judges of the states cannot be held responsible for the decisions of each judge, who is a master of his/her own court.

ALSO READ  #BBNaija Howard University officially renames college after late alumnus Chadwick Boseman

Where several courts give conflicting  decisions on the same issue, which of the decisions should be relied on or applied?

This is an aberration and certainly should not happen in normal circumstances, hence the furore around these decisions as reported. I can assure you that as an active practitioner, this is not our everyday experience. On the rare occasions that these things happen, you’ll find that it invariably involves politicians and political parties.

In a precedent-based judicial system like Nigeria’s, what do you think will be the outcome when people go ahead to rely on conflicting court decisions?

Nigeria is a common law jurisdiction like so many of the English speaking countries; this common law system is essentially an adversarial system, unlike the law gifted to our neighbours by France, Belgium, Portugal and so on, which is the civil law system and not adversarial like ours. It means that once we do not actively conceal information from the court that may be harmful to our case; we do not have a duty to go beyond presenting our case to researching and presenting opposing views. Similarly, when we research for precedents, we are effectively working from answer to question. We know the point we are canvassing and we will find the precedents to buttress that point.

How can this situation between courts of coordinate jurisdictions be avoided?

Well, it’s most unfortunate and if it has occurred as a result of litigants forum-shopping or deliberately concealing information from the courts to gain an advantage, it is within the power of the court to sanction such litigants. Of course, I have talked about the research tools and law reporting in real time.

ALSO READ  #BBNaija Borno opens 87 sites for COVID-19 vaccination

What is the role of the NJC in all of this drama?

The NJC is crucial in this entire drama, to borrow from you. The NJC can investigate all complaints against judges on this issue and bring out the details of what actually transpired to reassure Nigerian citizens and the litigating public and shore up their confidence in the system. If in the course of the investigation, they find there’s been judicial rascality, then, they can sanction the judges, and in extreme cases, have them dismissed. What powers do the NJC have over these judges? The NJC is the regulator of judges. So, figuratively speaking, they have the power of life and death.

Copyright PUNCH.

All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.

Contact: [email protected]

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD MOVIES

About the author

admin

'Welcome to KessmusicTv, your most visited online platform that delivers latest Nigerian music, Videos and others content to AFRICA Nigerians,Ghana and around the world. It’s basically concerned with promotion and distribution of good music around the Globe. Our platform is easy to access from any browser and country around the world.'

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: