Conflicting judgments: NJC begins probe of erring judges

Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed

Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed

By Paschal Chukwuemeka

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, yesterday disclosed that some judges involved in the delivering of conflicting judgments that embarrassed the country’s judiciary are being investigated by the National Judicial Council.

It will be recalled that the Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja divisions of the Federal High Court had recently given conflicting judgments and orders on the crisis in the PDP which eventually led to the abortion of the National Convention of the party in Port Harcourt.

“We have received complaints concerning the conflicting judgments given by some courts in the country, we are investigating the issues, after which action will be taken on the report, the CJN said.

Justice Mohammed stated this shortly after swearing in 22 legal practitioners elevated to the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

The event also marked the commencement of the 2016/2017 legal year.

Similarly, he commented on the manner some people write complaints on the conduct of legal practitioners to the Presidency rather than addressing such petitions to the NJC.

“There is a procedure for making a complaint, without undue interference from other Arms of Government. It is therefore of great concern and wonder that the growing trend of our lawyers, litigants and even members of the public to route complaints against judicial officers to the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“I am most dismayed that legal practitioners who out to better appreciate the need for the independence of their primary constituency would engage in this misguided practice.

“This dangerous new trend has borne itself out in various complaints ranging from disparaging remarks against judges of our Superior Courts, to unprecedented, unwarranted and unfortunate personal attacks on judicial officers.

“I must admit that these cases were particularly distasteful and have been marked for action against the erring counsel, by the legal practitioners disciplinary committee.

“This trend is a distressing indicator that having overcome the evils of interference with the independence of our courts during the military era, some legal practitioners now engage in dragging the judiciary back into the same bondage in his current democracy” Justice Mohammed said.

More so, the CJN expressed dismay over the way and manner some courts disregard the decisions of the Supreme Court.

“It is with great trepidation and dismay that I note the growing trend of the disregard for laid down precedent in decisions from various levels of courts, even the appellate court.

He reminded members of the Bar that, “it is necessary to restate that according to the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, the decisions of the Supreme Court remain final until the Supreme Court alone decides otherwise”.

Justice Mahmud warned that every court in Nigeria is bound by the decisions of the apex court and shall not graft a different outcome from those expressly laid down by the Supreme Court.

He noted that “Several conflicting decisions were recklessly dished out by the Court of Appeal last yer in appeals arising from various divisions election petition tribunals,given on election petitions filed by the parties who lost in the general elections conducted in 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 decisions of the Supreme Court.

The CJN therefore called on judicial officers to have due respect for the law and strive to adjudicate in a manner that is premised upon principles of justice