Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The National Judicial Council, (NJC) has commenced investigation into a petition brought by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Zamfara State, Alhaji Sani Shinkafi.
Shinkafi, in the said petition, which was received by the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria on February 26, alleged that a judge of the Zamfara State High Court engaged in “gross abuse of office and judicial rascality,” when adjudicating over a political case marked ZMS/GS/52/2018, pertaining to the March 9 governorship election.
According to the petition, the judge, Justice Bello Muhammed Shinkafi, allegedly failed to respect the judicial hierarchy, by going ahead to deliver judgement on a matter that was pending before the Sokoto State Division of the Court of Appeal.
The APGA standard-bearer alleged that the high court judge took the action after he was notified that the appellate court was already seized of the facts of the case, thereby violating his right to fair hearing as enshrined under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The petition, copies of which were also sent to the Chief Judge of Zamfara State and chairman of the Zamfara State Judicial Service Commission, read: “I am the Zamfara State gubernatorial candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) tor the 2019 general election.
“I applied to be joined as an interested party in the above named case before Hon. Justice Bello Muhammed Shinkafi of Zamfara State High Court No. 3.
However, in a ruling, the said judge refused my application and I then headed to the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division (copy of the notice appeal herewith attached).
“To ensure all court process and procedures were made in order and never take chance, my counsel had also filed a motion for stay of proceedings pending appeaI before the High Court (copy attached). It is highly disturbing to have imagined how Justice Bello would go ahead to deliver judgement despite my appeal pending before Court of Appeal.
“Sir, judiciary and all stakeholders in the administration of justice are known to be ethical, professional and disciplined. Regard and respect for seniority is an already established decorum that was never challenged, especially among judges, let alone of a case like this where the hierarchy of the two courts in question were defined by the Constitution.
“My lords, l have considered with greatest dismay the action of Justice Bello as unethical and unprofessional. It speaks the volume of his unpreparedness to strictly adhere to the rule of law and already established court process and procedures.
“The tendency of Justice Bello’s complexity and complication in the instant case is glaring, points to the fact that he has been a high court judge for good number of years and served as judiciary staff throughout his career. He could not have claimed mistake or ignorance of the fact that where there is an interlocutory appeal against the ruling of a particular court, the lower court should be estopped from delivering a judgement until the Appeal Court gives its verdict.”