The Chief Justice of Nigeria as well as the Nigerian Bar Association have swung into action to frustrate attempts to convert the judiciary into a marketplace.
Already, the reaction that is coming from the top echelon of the nation’s third tier of government has left mischief makers who have turned the judiciary into their private farmlands in fear.
In the Rivers State where judges are purportedly hawking court injunctions, there is serious apprehension in the judiciary.
Given what is on ground, there is a ring of judges whose names are being linked to “cash and carry” justice.
They have something in common. They are young judges appointed to the Bench by Governor Nyesom Wike.
They have become notorious for issuing all kinds of orders, even when such embarrassing orders compromise the notion of impartiality on which the judiciary runs.
While the NBA, the body of all lawyers in Nigeria is frowning at the issuance of indiscriminate court orders, the nation’s Chief Justice, worried by the situation, has summoned Chief Judges of some states to examine pronouncements by erring judges under their watch.
“What is left of the integrity of courts in the land is being consumed. The show of shame that the judiciary has dragged itself into, which has come to the surface as a result of the infighting in the PDP, is out there for all to see.
“The manner injunctions are being issued by the courts should be a major source of worry to rational minds” a senior lawyer said to the Port Harcourt Telegraph in the Rivers capital.
The lawyer who spoke under conditions of anonymity warned that “the Judiciary is headed for a shipwreck. We are heading towards the shore on board a rudderless Ship. Which is why Nigerians are concerned about this ugly trend.”
Many in Nigeria are baffled by developments that are occurring within the Judiciary.
Courts of coordinate jurisdiction, particularly high courts, are issuing rulings on matters that other courts have assumed jurisdiction on.
There are indeed serious indications that politicians are increasingly manipulating ‘hungry’ and ’empty-headed’ judges who ascended to the Bench just to make money.
Accordingly, this set of judges are selling justice as wares to the highest bidder in a manner that is clearly becoming ridiculous.
The Rivers APC which insists that it has been a victim of several frivolous injunctions and other slanted judicial pronouncents said Monday night in a press release entitled, ‘Intervention of the CJN: A Stitch in time’ :
“We believe that the intervention of the CJN and the Nigerian Bar Association on the side of truth, as a result of the horrifying manipulation of the judiciary by members of the political class, has come at the right time.
“Unfotunately, the judicial arm in Rivers State and other judicial arms across the country have transformed into shopping centres where questionable and frivolous injunctions are auctioned at will.
“The invitation extended to some high ranking judicial officers by the CJN has proved the point that the APC in Rivers State has been making.”
The statement issued by its Spokesman, Chief Ogbonna Nwuke further noted, “It is good that the CJN and the NBA have decided to halt the ease with which some judges are descending into the arena of justice.
“On our part, we think that the urgent steps taken to arrest the drift by the Bar and the Bench is commendable. This noble decision, in our view, has been long in coming.”
According to the statement, “Pliant judges in our system who are being used to undermine the political process, and desecrate the integrity of the court should note that the game is up.
“There are searchlights everywhere and recent moves that are being made by the judiciary to rediscover itself only proves there is no hiding place for erring judges, going forward.”
“It is our hope”, Chief Nwuke added, “that all men of goodwill who care about the future of our great country will support the effort to free the judiciary from the claws of selfish politicians who are desirous to truncate democracy.”
Festus Okoye, A Federal Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, recently raised an alarm, saying that indiscriminate Court orders were jeopardizing the work of the body and undermining the capacity of political parties to handle internal matters.
What will happen now that the CJN has stepped in remains to be seen. The Federal High Court has introduced changes that are expected to reduce the penchant for granting injunctions on matters, that cannot be classified as emergencies.
One such case has been pending in the Rivers Judiciary. The matter, PHC/2010 /CS /2021 was instigated on August 5, 2021 and allegedly kept in the cooler.
Now those who are behind the case which ought to have been brought to an open court while the courts were in session are shopping for a vacation judge that will grant an injunction restraining the APC from proceeding with its local government Congress in Rivers State.
Quite a number of persons, including the media, are waiting to see what the vacation judges would do when the matter is eventually assigned.
They are not alone. Lawyers for the APC are keeping a keen eye on the judiciary to see what the next step would be.
But, they are hoping that the APC would be put on notice to argue the matter.
Given the disposition of the Judiciary, this is the right step to take in order to reduce some of the abuses that are associated with “trade-by-barter” deals that are emanating from the courts.
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