In every constitutional democracy, the judiciary is one of the major pillars that sustains its principles and tenets. It is an embodiment of equity,fairness,justice and rule of law. Without the judiciary which is regarded as the last hope of the aggrieved,law and order will stand on their heads. It is against this backdrop that justice must not only be done by the institution but must be seen by all to have been done.
Until the amendments of the Electoral Act 2010,it was only the presidential election petition that got to the Supreme Court. Perhaps,the perceived injustice some of the petitions suffered partly informed the amendments. Hence,governorship election petitions in particular,no longer terminate at the Court of Appeal. The apex court is the final arbiter.
Interestingly,the 2015 general elections and the colour of judgements emanating from the Court of Appeal have somewhat lent credence to the wisdom that informed the Electoral Act amendments. In the last couple of months,the Appeal Court had delivered what can best be termed conflicting judgements in some of the National Assembly and governorship election petitions brought before them. Curiously,some of the facts and principles of the petitions are similar.
While we will refrain from commenting on some of these cases in adherence to ethical standards we, however, commend the timely intervention of the Chief Justice of Nigeria CJN,Justice Mahmud Mohammed. The CJN used the annual conference of Court of Appeal in Abuja to express his concern on the issue.
In an apparent reference to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP accusation that the appeal court judgements were delivered to favour the ruling All Proggresives Congress ,APC, in his admonition that the justices are guardian, of the law and must not only be just but must also dispense certainty, could not have been more timely.
That is why we are adding our voice to that of the CJN to urge the three wise men(including women) on the Court of Appeal bench to employ deeper jurisprudential perspectives in their judgement delivery, especially in cases with similar facts. As it is the practice in court system,the Appeal Court, in deference to the Supreme Court as the highest court in the land,should be guided by and follow the latter’s precedents. This is so because as Justice Mohammed observed,there cannot be justice, where there is confusion as to the state of the law as pronounced by the court.
We also recommend the CJN’s piece of advice on the need for the Court of Appeal to have an internal Law report for Justices use either electronically or in print. Equally important is the wise counsel of Niki Tobi JSC (as he then was) that immediately a judgement is delivered in one division of the Court of Appeal,it should be sent to the other division instantly. This will engender uniformity and consistency in judgements.