No Amount Of Judicial Activism Can Make Nigeria Work Unless… – Justice Buba


Justice Ibrahim Buba, a retired Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, has declared that no amount of judicial activism by the judges can make the Nigeria society better if the political class are unwilling to play by the rules of the game, the provisions of the constitution of their parties enacted by them and given to themselves as well as the Constitution of Nigeria.

This was as he pointedly accused politicians and political actors, who cannot have their way, of undermining the independence of the judiciary, by not only starving it of funds but ensuring an erosion of independence and trying to remove chief judges unconstitutionally.

Buba also said that until and unless the political class, particularly the executive arm of government start to obey the orders of courts, good governance would continue to elude the country just as democracy would become seriously endangered.

Justice Buba, who stated this in Abuja at a one-day workshop on Judicial Accountability, organized by TAP Initiative in conjunction with Open Society Foundation (OSF), noted that even though the judiciary has the strictest forms of regulations as well as qualification, the Nigeria’s political class and not the judiciary is responsible for the prevailing state of impunity in virtually all the sectors of the country.

He insisted that the country cannot progress without the strict observance of the rule of law, adding that the failure of politicians to respect the country’s Constitution and their own rules is making Nigeria retrogress fast.

In his paper titled; ‘Impact of Judicial Accountability on Public Trust in the Legal System’ Buba said that if politicians play by the rules, a lot of political cases would not get to the courts.

He said; “The Nigerian judiciary, undoubtedly, is being overworked by politicians to sustain democracy. It is very easy for an outsider not to see the “cow” on the head of the politician and political class, to quickly see the “lice” on the head of the judiciary.

“Obedience to court orders is sine qua non to order and good governance. If judgments of courts and court orders go forth without respect and come back without effect, society and by extension democracy will be endangered,” he added.

He noted that never in the history of Nigeria are the courts so inundated with pre-election matters and election petitions, as under the current dispensation, adding that the Nigerian judiciary has given a very good account of itself.

In the words of Buba; “the judiciary in spite of all odds, has to work with incompetent, poorly paid support staff whose trust cannot be guaranteed, judgments can be leaked to the press before being delivered.

“The Nigerian judge, a product of the Nigerian society and not from the moon, is still struggling to hold the balance evenly, why wouldn’t we say the Nigerian judge has given a good account of himself, why would we not say he is one of the best in the world.

“Nigerian judges are courageous, very courageous. They have dared the military, they have dared the political class, like every society, they have also dealt even with their colleagues who are found wanting.

“We have increased in numerical strength both at the bar and on the bench. It is our duty to carryout checks on our members and the way we do things and stop crying wolf where there is none,” he said.

The former judge also said that even agencies of government that cannot have their ways, want to have their judges and their own courts, so as to act ultra vires their statutory powers and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, adding that if the country play politics of development and politics of advancement, resources will not be wasted on inter-party fighting, election petitions and by extension, dragging the judiciary in the mud of the conflict.

He further said; “In the three arms of government, it is only the judiciary that has stringent conditions of qualification. Our judges, must have a minimum of 10 years post call to be appointed a judge of a high court, while a school certificate whether pass or fail or its equivalent can attain offices in the other arms of government. It is they who are in politics and try to dictate to the judiciary what the law is, and what should be done.

“It is in this regard, the members of the bar must jealously guard and guide their profession and ensure that the judiciary gets the right people on the bench who can call the bluff of the other arms of government in checks and balances,” Buba said.

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