EDITORIAL: The judiciary as harbinger of hope


It is often said that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man.

Uba Group

What this infers is that the judiciary is the only place where the common man can get justice.

According to the acknowledged roles of the judiciary, it protects the rule of law and ensures supremacy of the law. It also safeguards the rights of individuals, settles disputes by the law, as well as punishes offenders.

Since the return of Nigeria to the current democratic dispensation, the judiciary has increasingly made incursions into the determination of electoral victories and outcomes.

Election litigations in Nigeria have been adjudged by records and informed sources as the highest in the world. The implication is that more often than not, the Nigerian judiciary now tends to decide who the leaders should be and not the Nigerian electorate.

The overreliance and resorting to the judiciary even for the most frivolous and ridiculous election-related litigations has brought out the good, the bad, and the ugly in the Nigerian judiciary.

Looking back on the nation’s judiciary, when great jurists like Justices Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa, Egbert Udo Udoma, George Sodeinde Sowemimo, Samuel Obakayode Eso, Adolphus Godwin Karibi-Whyte, Muhammadu Lawal Uwais, Samuel Walter Onnoghen, Niki Tobi, Mary Ukaego Odili, to mention a few, graced the bench, what obtains today cannot but be seen as disappointingly appalling.

It was Oputa who defined the Supreme Court indisputably when he said: “Supreme Court is final not because it is infallible; it is infallible because it is final.”

This is a deep philosophical declaration that conveys the ultimate burden borne by a judge. And a corruptible judge is worse than an armed robber, a rapist and a murderer combined.

But since the days of Oputa, the third arm has shrunk in public estimation and perception in our clime, and for good reasons.

The confidence enjoyed by the judiciary as the last hope of the common man has greatly waned through the vicissitudes visited on it and for the many injuries the arm has inflicted on itself. The heads of the arm have of late openly complained about corruption in the judiciary on auspicious occasions.

Several cases have called into question the presumed neutrality of the judiciary, without which justice may be impossible to obtain due to the likelihood of bias.

The Nigerian judiciary has gone through various forms of controversies in recent times as a result of some of its judgments that people felt were short of expectations, especially at the Supreme Court level.

With this development, the ‘vote of no confidence’ on the judiciary grew and people gradually began to lose interest in approaching the court when their rights are infringed upon, especially when the government in power is the defendant.

Having been subjected to judicial process several times, President Muhammadu Buhari, in his early days in office, had alluded to the judiciary being a problem rather than the hope of all men.

He further brought the third arm of government to its knees when he once told his audience that the judiciary was his main headache in the fight against graft.

“We salute the industry, resilience, tenacity and resolution of the law lords and if wishes were horses, these noble jurists will be individually bestowed with distinguishable national honours as moments for their indelible service to the nation at critical times”

Interestingly, eight years after, it was surprising that the same President Buhari has recommended the same court he publicly accused of corruption to aggrieved parties at the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections.

While congratulating the candidate of All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, who was declared winner, Buhari said: “Votes and those that cast them cannot be taken for granted. Each must be earned. Competition is good for our democracy. There is no doubt the people’s decision has been rendered in the results we look at today.


“That is not to say the exercise was without fault. For instance, there were technical problems with electronic transmission of the results. Of course, there will be areas that need work to bring further transparency and credibility to the voting procedure.”

In view of his latest counsel to the aggrieved parties in the February 25 general elections, the big question is, how prepared is the nation’s judiciary to serve as an impartial arbiter for electoral disputes?

The frequent recourse to the judiciary and the obvious lack of capacity to deliver on electoral justice has turned to a demeaning reference to the country’s judicial failures.

The call by the president becomes necessary at this point considering the massive misgivings and complaints of misconduct and heists during the elections as to forestall the apparently looming clouds of agitations and violence.

Good enough, the political parties have agreed to follow this course for which we expect the legal fireworks and decisions to be centered on evidential proof of the failures of the ballot and far from technicalities and other judicial inanities.

Nigerians have considered the call to go to court as a veritable opportunity for the jurists to redeem the battered image of the judiciary and restore its much needed public confidence that has gravely been lowered to drastic ends.

This loss of confidence is hinged on several cases that justice have not been delivered and also because of allegations of corruption among the judges.

We consider this as not good enough for our country as the only place where justice was supposed to be preserved, where justice was supposed to be done, people are having doubts about the integrity of the people that would deliver that justice.

Be that as it may, we still believe that the judiciary is the last hope of all men. We still argue in favour of their ability to have done justice to numerous cases in the past.

The Supreme Court has consistently delivered judgments within the time limit prescribed by the Constitution and had not meted injustice to the party by delivering its judgment outside time.

The Supreme Court has consistently enjoined political parties to adhere to the provisions of the Electoral Act and the guidelines of their own parties.

In instances where political parties have brazenly flouted the provisions of the Electoral Act and their own guidelines, the Supreme Court has ordered them to do the right thing and obey the law.

We salute the industry, resilience, tenacity and resolution of the law lords and if wishes were horses, these noble jurists will be individually bestowed with distinguishable national honours as moments for their indelible service to the nation at critical times.

Our judiciary has always stood up for democracy and justice. Even when our Judiciary has delivered controversial judgments, a dispassionate analysis most times, shows that it merely followed the dictates of the law, albeit rigidly.

The judiciary has and should always be impartial arbiters and shun favouritism of any sort.