Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, has said that the National Judicial Council (NJC) is investigating judges delivering conflicting judgments in same cases.
The CJN who was delivering his address at the special session of the Supreme Court to mark the commencement of the 2016/2017 legal year and swearing of new Senior Advocate of Nigeria said the council had received petitions against some judges who delivered conflicting judgements and that council was already investigating the petitions.
As part of the investigation, our correspondent reports that NJC had already written to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to forward to the council conflicting judgments delivered by judges against the commission.
INEC had at various fora complained that its work was being hampered by conflicting judgments. The commission cited an instance where a court ordered the commission to exclude the Peoples Democratic Party only for another court with similar jurisdiction to order that the party e included.
The CJN said that at the end of the investigation appropriate actions would be taken against any judges found culpable.
There have been a couple of conflicting judgements in recent times, both at the level of the Court of Appeal and the Federal High Court.
The most recent in the various judgements on the Peoples Democratic Party PDP suit, emanating from both Abuja and Port Harcourt divisions of the court.
Justice Mohammed further expressed dismay over the growing trend of the disregard for laid down precedent in decisions from various levels of courts, especially at the appellate court.
He stated that every court in Nigerian was bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court and should not graft a different outcome from those expressly laid down by the Supreme Court.
“Several conflicting decisions were recklessly dished out by the Court of Appeal last year in appeals arising from various decisions of the Elction Petitions Tribunals, given on election petitions filed by parties who lost in the general elections conducted in April 2015.
Such decisions were made as a result of flagrant refusal of the Panels of the Court of Appeal involved, to be bound not only by its own decisions but also by the decision of this court”, he added.
The CJN also blamed the delay in the delivery of judgments by courts on lawyers.
“While we all rush to rehash the age-old rhetoric that justice delayed is justice denied, the actions of our key stakeholders, particularly members of the bar have often proven to be far from words.
“Sadly, certain members of the Bar are conspicuous in utilizing unethical, frivolous applications and appeals, multiplicity of actions in courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction and other act of calumny to frustrate the speedy dispensation of justice. The Supreme Court takes a dim view of such delays and we will constantly introduce measures to reduce delay in the administration of justice as the past year’s statistics will doubtless testify”, he stated.
The CJN also warned lawyers to cease writing petition against judicial officers directly to President Mohammadu Buhari.
He however gave judges in the country the marching order to deal with any lawyer that maligns them.
He advised lawyers to address their petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC), and promised that the council would act on it without delay.
He charged the new SANs to imbibe the highest tenets of integrity and humility that befitting their status.
In his own speech, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN expressed concern over conflicting judgements from various courts in the land.
Malami who was represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation, Mr. Taiwo Abidogun called on the leadership of the judiciary to move fast in order to prevent the continuation of such occurrence.
He also charged the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee to come up with a policy which would further ensure that those who were admitted into the inner bar were qualified both in practice and character.
He charged the new SANs to remain a shining light in the practice of law.