Francis Sardauna writes that the recent confirmation of Justice Musa Danladi Abubakar by the National Judicial Council as substantive the Chief Judge of Katsina State will ensure speedy dispensation of justice and clear numerous awaiting trial cases in the state
Obviously, the problem with administration of criminal justice in Nigeria is not the absence of laws or institutions, but the will of actors within and outside criminal justice institutions to put aside their personal or group interests and apply the law. This largely, is the main reason for the low level of conviction of high profile corruption defendants in Nigeria hence there is the need for periodic reforms to ensure that the laws and institutions keep up with the times.
The pervading low integrity of the judiciary, which is only an aspect of the justice system has suffered greatly due to the alleged despicable acts of some members of the bench who most times collude with the bar to weaken the law thereby allowing corruption to grow on fertile ground.
However, in Katsina state the situation is quite different since the swearing in of Justice Musa Danladi Abubakar as the substantive Chief Judge of the State. This is because of the role he is playing in rejuvenating the judicial system in the state. His appointment, according to legal practitioners was made in the right direction and was based strictly on merit as it is through a competitive process, and he emerged victorious.
Justice Abubakar is a detribalised person, who does not place too much emphasis on segregation based on religion or tribe. That clearly shows how detribalised he is in spite of coming from a core Muslim home. Never in his dealings with people has he placed emphasis on one’s religion or tribe as he believes in the saying that one’s religion is between him and his God.
In fact, the dawn of a new era is in place with the appointment of this energetic fellow to steer the ship of the judicial system in the state at this period. It is imperative to stress the very fundamental fact, the new chief judge should as a matter of principle rejuvenate and reinvigorate the system in order to achieve the desired objectives of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
There is no doubt that with Justice Abubakar as the Chief Judge of the state, there is glimmer of hope that things are going to be done according to the dictates of the laid down rules and regulations within the purview of the structures of the judicial system.
No wonder, at the swearing in ceremony at Government House, Governor Aminu Bello Masari described him as an erudite jurist whose experience and practice of the legal profession has been a reproach, stressing that he has over the years established an enviable reputation as a man of conscience who is fair, just and firm while discharging his responsibilities.
The governor assured that he would continue to pray for the chief judge to enable him to discharge his responsibility in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He said, “Your job is the most difficult one, difficult in the sense that you are the last hope for the people of Katsina state. People who know you will come before you soliciting for assistance, so in that circumstances one should pray to Allah to guide you in dealing with such cases”.
Governor Masari urged the appointee to work towards strengthening the course of justice and ensuring quick dispensation of justice in the state.
Corroborating the governor’s view, the Commissioner for Justice and Anthony General of the state, Ahamed El-mansur said, “He is a decent man, intellectually mobile and administratively sagacious. Therefore, Governor Aminu Bello Masari, made the right choice by appointing Justice Abubakar as the Chief Judge of Katsina State.”
Justice Abubakar believes that an effective criminal justice system is central to the maintenance of the rule of law and socio-economic development.
He said, “As we all know, the institutions of criminal justice have functioned at sub-optimal levels. Delays have become prevalent. Our prisons have become congested. Generally, the system has become ineffective in responding to rising criminality and the rapidly evolving nature of new forms of criminal activities.
“To avert further loss of confidence of the ordinary people it the criminal justice institutions, reforms became both urgent and imperative. To stave-off further decline and loss of confidence, there was an urgent need to develop strategic responses to these challenges.
“We needed to correct the dysfunctional institutional matrix of criminal justice administration and reform its substantive and procedural laws.”
According to him, correctional agencies have become obsolete and need to be upgraded and strengthened, while there was the need for proper engagement and advocacy on institutional responsibilities as imposed by the law.
Decrying the problem of prison congestion, Justice Abubakar pledged that a quarterly visit to prison facilities in the state would commence with a view to addressing the challenges associated with prison congestion.
The chief judge, who at different forum lamented over what he described as high rate of crime in Nigeria, said, “Global influence, population explosion and mis-governance are the major factors for crime prevalence in Nigeria.
“In my early days as a magistrate you hardly hear a case of rape but now the prevalence of rape is extremely high. Most of these cases are child related cases. When you talk of prevalence of capital offenses, drug abuse is the number one factor.
“Eight out of 10 heinous crimes are committed under the influence of drugs. So, it is fight that everybody must involve to avert the rate of crimes and criminality in Nigeria.”
The chief judge called on the police, Nigeria Bar Association, Nigeria Prison Service and the bench to liaise and pursue speedy trial of cases in the interest of serving justice.
Debunking insinuations making the round that his appointment will be answerable to Governor Aminu Bello Masari, the chief judge explained, “The appointment of a judicial officer is done with thorough checks and balances.
“The appointment of a chief judge is a constitutional issue. When a vacancy exists for the position of a chief judge, the constitution first said the most senior officer automatically takes over.
“When that is done, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will recommend to the governor that the incumbent has retired or is about to retired the next in seniority is Mr. A who is suitable to hold that position pending his confirmation by the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the state House of Assembly.
“The next process is, while in acting capacity, two most senior judges are recommended to the NJC who will screen and scrutinize the candidates and if qualified they will go for interview. When that is done the council will send the name of the qualified judge for onwards confirmation by the state Assembly. If the House confirmed then the governor appoints finally.”
On speedy dispensation of justice in the state, the chief judge stated, “When you look at issues being identified as being key to the administration of justice, first, justice must not just be done; it must be seen to be done.
“To ensure it is done, any case brought to court must be determined expeditiously. When justice is delayed, some rights could be trampled upon. Every person that is accused should know his or her rights early enough, so that the interest and benefits that ought to come from that case is not lost . So, speedy dispensation of justice is key to every other aspect of reform.
“To achieve this therefore, the CJN should ensure that judges live above board. Also, it should be noted that corruption is not limited to the judges, a lot of people are involved in judicial corruption, from filing of processes to serving it, people are involved. So, to have a fair dispensation of justice, every person involved in the judicial system needs to be cleaned up.”
Meanwhile, Justice Musa Danladi Abubakar was born on 21st November, 1958 in Funtua local government area of the state, where he attended Aya Primary school Funtua between 1965 to 1972 before he commenced his secondary education initially at GSS Zaria and later GSS Funtua where he obtained his West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1977.
Because of his passion for education, Justice Abubakar joined Bayero University College Kano for a stop-gap IJMB programme to secure admission to read law in the state same institution where he graduated with LLB (Hons.) in 1981. He immediately proceeded to the Nigerian Law School Lagos in 1982 for the Bar finals.
Justice Abubakar was called to the Nigerian Bar and enrolled as a Solicitor and Advocate. He did his one year compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Port Harcourt and Kaduna states which he completed in 1983.
The state chief judge, began his legal career with Kaduna state Ministry of Justice as Pupil State Counsel in 1981, and moved to the then Kaduna state College of Legal Studies, Katsina as a Lecturer. He joined the services of Kaduna state Judiciary as Magistrate II and rose to become a Chief Magistrate in 1987.
His dedication to duty and hard work earned him a rise to become the Chief Registrar and Sherrif of Katsina state Judiciary, overseeing the activities of the state judiciary between 1988 and 1994.
Justice Musa Danladi Abubakar was appointed and sworn in as a Judge of the state High Court of Justice in November 1994.
While on March 13th, 2018, he was appointed Acting Chief Judge of Katsina state by Governor Aminu Bello Masari. A position he occupied before his recent confirmation by the National Judicial Council (NJC) as substantive chief judge of Katsina state.
Justice Musa Danladi Abubakar has contributed significantly in the public service and participated widely in various community development projects, notable among them are chairman Rent Tribunal, member Constituent Assembly, chairman Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Conduct of Local Government Election Tribunal in Katsina state, Chairman, Failed Banks Tribunal, Abuja Zone, member Technical Committee on the Implementation of Shari’a in Katsina state, Commissioner with Katsina state Shari’a Commission, Chairman Danja Civil Disturbances Judicial Commission of Inquiry, Chairman Governing Council Yusuf Bala Usman College of Legal and General studies, Daura.
He also served as the Chairman, Katsina Metropolis Civil Disturbances Judicial Commission of Inquiry, Chairman, Taraba state Governorship Election Tribunal, 2015. He is a patron and trustee to many Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) within and outside the state.
Justice Musa Danladi Abubakar attended several national and international seminars, workshops and conferences and has written and presented over thirty professional papers on various issues at different fora. Abubakar, is a also a winner of National Productivity Merit Award in 1998, a Fellow of International Dispute Resolution Institute, among other notable awards.
However, it is important for the new chief judge to assiduously work for the good of the state through the initiation of ways to reposition the judicial system in Katsina state that would complement the efforts of the state government in ensuring a crime free state.
All hands must be on deck to rally round the present administration of Governor Aminu Bello Masari, extending the hand of friendship to Justice Abubakar, to offer solutions to the myriad of problems confronting the judiciary in the state.