Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Former governor of Lagos State and leader of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu was on Monday joined by the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) in condemning recent attacks on judicial officers by aggrieved politicians.
In a veiled reference to the protest that trailed the judgment of the Supreme Court that sacked ex-Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria warned that calling for the sack of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko on account of the judgment was a dangerous excursion into the independence of the judiciary.
They spoke separately on Monday at the valedictory session of the Supreme Court to mark the retirement of Justice Aminu Sanisu from the bench after attaining the mandatory age of 70 years.
Tinubu who was cornered by journalists after the event warned against tarnishing the image of the judiciary by politicians who lose their cases in court.
“The judiciary is an important pillar for the sustenance of our democracy. We have chosen democracy and the judiciary as part of that very important arm of government. We should give it our support.”
On the attacks on judicial officers, Tinubu noted: “This is an indivisible commitment to the rule of law. Yes, some people succeed in court while others fail. Reasonableness and honesty, integrity and character of the judiciary have always been reflective in their judgments. That is what we stand out for as a democratic nation. We should not tarnish the image of the judiciary when their decision goes against us. Judgment is ours and perfection is an act of God Almighty. So, if you notice an error in a way that what you perceived as an error did not favour you, try again not everyone is a winner.”
Earlier, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria frowned at the attitude of politicians who go about blackmailing and intimidating judicial officers when decisions go against them in court.
Chief Joseph Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN), who spoke on behalf of the body, lampooned politicians for bringing the integrity of the judiciary into disrepute.
Okpoko who stood in for the chairman of the body, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN, at the event noted: “It is, therefore, a great achievement for a judge to serve his tenure in the difficult office of a judge or Justice and retire gracefully at the prescribed age of seventy.
The political class in our country, does not appear to be ready to appreciate the difficult task of judging and determining issues of fact and law applicable to any case. They rush out to criticise the judgments of our courts, which they may not have read. In this way, victorious parties in a particular case, jubilate and go for thanksgiving, singing praises of the judiciary and declare openly that the judiciary is truly the last hope of the common man. When that same victorious party loses in another case, it cries out to the high heavens, accusing the judiciary of corruption and other high crimes against its interest.
In recent times, the unfounded accusation against some judicial officers has moved to a call for resignation of a particular judicial officer because the judgment delivered in his court went against their expectation. The call for the resignation of a judge because of his judgment, is a dangerous excursion into the territory of judicial independence. Blackmail and intimidation are not compatible bedmates for the effective dispensation of justice. When the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Vice President A.L.Gore and stopped him from pursuing his petition further in the Supreme Court, all he said was: “I do not agree with the judgment but I have to accept the judgment of the Supreme Court.” Why can’t the political class in Nigeria adopt the same attitude and respect our judicial institution?
We lawyers must stand up and fight for the judiciary as an institution. Time has come for us and our clients to be held accountable for those unwanted attacks on the judiciary.”
However, the body disagreed with the Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Tanko Muhammad that existing vacancies at the bench of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal should be filled solely by serving judges .
Okpoko regretted that for long, the country had forgotten to appoint private legal practitioners as justices into the bench of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
He said that the arguments being put forward that appointing private legal practitioners would block the chances of the lawyers who have served as magistrates and the lower court was misplaced because the post of a judge is an appointive position and not by promotion.
So, “let the door be open to every eligible lawyer as enshrined in Section 231(3) and Section 238(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended),” he added.
Also speaking at the event, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), through his representative, Dayo Akpata (SAN), Solicitor General of the Federation, poured encomium on the retired jurist for his role in the development of the law.