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The Evils Of Technical Justice

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Adegboruwa Cautions Against Fresh ENDSARS Protest

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Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

It was supposed to be a smooth ride into and out of the court, for the plaintiffs, but they got more than what they bargained for, from the judiciary, after so many years of travelling round the hierarchy of the courts, to get justice. This has become the lot of litigants and their lawyers, who daily contend with the frustrating factors hindering the due and effective administration of justice in Nigeria.

Let me share with you the intriguing facts of the case of Boniface Ebere Okezie & 3 Ors. v. Central Bank of Nigeria & 5 Ors. (2020) 15 NWLR (Pt.1747) 181. So it started on one fateful day on 14th August, 2009, when Mallam Lamido Sanusi, then Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, issued an order, removing all the executive directors of Union Bank of Nigeria, UBN, and thereafter appointed Mrs. Funke Osibodu and others, to replace them. About N120 billion was then injected into the UBN, on the grounds that it was weak, undercapitalized and/or insolvent.

These actions were well publicized, with a threat to turn UBN over to the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation or sell it outright, to foreign investors. As a result of the declared crisis in UBN, its erstwhile directors who had been removed from office were handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, for investigation.

Aggrieved with the actions of the CBN governor, some of the shareholders of UBN filed an action at the Federal High Court, Lagos, under section 303 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, seeking leave of court to challenge the actions of the CBN governor, on behalf of UBN, by derivative action. In the originating summons, the plaintiffs did not raise any questions for answer, but set out their claims in declarations, injunctive reliefs and damages. In response to the originating summons, the defendants filed a notice of preliminary objection, challenging the competence of the suit and the jurisdiction of the court to hear and determine the action of the plaintiffs.

The preliminary objection was heard and upheld by the trial court on the ground that the originating summons did not contain questions for determination. The appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed as lacking in merit, whereupon the plaintiffs further appealed to the Supreme Court. The apex court wasted no time in chastising the trial court and the Court of Appeal, for clinging to technicality to rob the plaintiffs of justice.

The court held as follows: “There is need to keep the focus on the substantiality of justice and so each of these forms is valid as an originating summons for the determination of any question of right or of construction under an enactment.

“Justice does not reside in the form of the processes of the court. Where there are sufficient provisions in the rules of the court to sustain an action, the rules of natural justice demand that parties should be heard with a view to resolving their dispute once and for all. It is in the interest of justice that parties are not shut out prematurely from being heard in accordance with the laid down procedures in the court’s rules.”

The danger that society and the justice sector face, in the adherence to strict technical rules, is best demonstrated by a thorough analysis of the tortuous journey and checkered history of this case. The case commenced in 2009, at the Federal High Court and the final judgment of the Supreme Court was delivered 7th February, 2020, spanning a long period of about eleven painful years of several court appearances, travelling and financial expenses.

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At the time of the judgment of the Supreme Court, the plaintiffs could no longer get justice from the courts, as the interim board of Union Bank that was being challenged had served out its tenure and new boards had taken over almost in multiple tenures.

This is the lot of most litigants such that even this case should be considered as having moved fast, if we take into cognizance the facts of other cases commenced in court at the same time. The Supreme Court did not spare the two courts below: “There was no basis for the conclusion of the two courts below that the originating summons of the appellants was bad and must be struck out for not stating questions for determination.

For effect, it was certain that the two courts below went the wrong way in reaching their conclusion and a miscarriage of justice ensued in the erroneous application of the procedural law or rules, hence the necessity for the Supreme Court’s intervention and to come against concurrent findings of fact of two courts.”Happily, the apex court took out time to define the role of the judiciary, in very clear terms: “The paramount duty of courts is to do substantial justice and not cling to technicalities that will defeat the ends of justice. It is more in the interest of justice that parties are afforded reasonable opportunity for their rights to be investigated and determined on merit rather than that parties be shut out prematurely from being heard on the grounds of non-substantial compliance with rules of court. It is immaterial that there are technicalities arising from statutory provisions, or technicalities inherent in rules of court.

So long as the law or rule has been substantially complied with and the object of the provisions of the statute or rule is not defeated, and failure to comply fully has not occasioned a miscarriage of justice, the proceedings will not be nullified.”

Generally speaking, the judiciary is established under section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended.

The Constitution proceeds to state the function of the judiciary as to “extend to all matters between persons, or between government or authority and to any person in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any questions as to the civil rights and obligations of that person.”

In reality therefore, the judicial powers as conferred upon the courts relate to adjudication and determination of disputes. This power is traceable to the period of creation, when the first man (Adam) was put to trial in the Garden of Eden. God drafted the charges, served them on him and took his defences thereto and thereafter judgment was passed.

However, judicial power was properly codified when the father-in-law of Moses visited him and advised him to set up several courts for the resolution of all contentious issues, depending on their magnitude. Man has followed this pattern ever since, leading to the trial, condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus by the Jews.

The judiciary became more entrenched as part of the foundation of the creation of Nigeria, due to the Sir Henry Willink Commission of Inquiry report, detailing the means of addressing the fears expressed by the minority ethnic groups, post-independence.

Assuredly, there will always be one dispute or another, in any human endeavor or existence. With their over-bloated population and size, the majority ethnic groups could always boast of electoral victory to form the cabinet and also the majority in the parliament, any day, through which they would continue to dominate the minority groups. It was then resolved to establish a strong judicial system, capable of intervening in any dispute between persons and persons, persons and governments or indeed any other authority.

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This partly accounts for the reason why the judiciary was established as an independent and autonomous arm of government, to be strong enough to look anyone in the eye, to be strong enough to damn oppressive policies and strike down all manner of injustice. This worked well for some time, until the military emerged with absolute powers and decrees, through which the powers of the courts were circumscribed and at times suspended, outright.

But even under the military, the judiciary remained the only arm of government that could not be dissolved totally, unlike the parliament and the executive. No government has been so brutish and damning, as to sack the courts outright; we have never had it so bad and we pray not to ever have such malady, in our time.

The cases of self-imposed timidity, as experienced in some courts across the land, are to say the least, most unfortunate. My Lords must be encouraged to stand tall and show courage, in the face of intimidation and mindless blackmail by the powers that be. This is not new at all, given that the executive arm of government is always at war with the judiciary, the former being always at the receiving end of court decisions.

Impunity being always at the door step of governors, commissioners, ministers, government ministries, parastatals and agencies, it is not strange at all that they are most often the culprits.

The judiciary must save itself from extinction and historical irrelevance; it must assert itself as the last hope of the common man, by ensuring that it digs very deep into each case presented before the court in order to give justice to those who deserve it. The incapacity of the court to do justice to the real issues before it goes back to the society itself, as litigants are then forced to embrace self-help, has made law enforcement agencies become dispute resolution merchants and thus arbitrariness has set in.

The solution to this is to merge all objections together with the hearing of the substantive suit and to incorporate all interlocutory appeals into the main case, such that the determination of the court can be made known on both in a single judgment, rather than pursue common issues of amendment or injunction up to the Supreme Court whilst the main case is guillotined thereby, on the altar of technicality.

We cannot afford in our clime, to exhume the corpse of Blackstone and cling to the stone-age practice of forms rather than the substance. We cannot continue to run a court system that delivers empty papers to the people as judgment, the contents of which do not birth any form of justice at all.

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Two Catholic priests Kidnapped In Edo

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Two Catholic priests Kidnapped In Edo

The abduction of two Catholic priests, Rev. Father Udo of St, Patrick Catholic church Uromi and Rev. Father Philemon Oboh of St. Joseph Retreat Center Ugboha, was confirmed on Sunday by Edo State Police Command.

The priests were abducted along the Benin-Auchi Road on their way back to Uromi in Esan South-East Local Government Area of the state.

In a statement on Sunday, the Police Public Relations Officer of the state, SP Chidi Nwabuzor, confirmed the abduction of the reverend fathers.

The statement read: “This is to confirm the kidnap of two Catholic Rev. Fathers; Rev. Fr. Udo Peter of St. Patrick Catholic Church Uromi and Rev. Fr. Philemon Oboh of St. Joseph Retreat Center, Ugboha in Esan South East LGA of Edo State.

READ ALSO: Kukah’s Diocese Under Attack, Two Priests, Worshippers Kidnapped

“The Edo State Police Command was informed of the incident by the Divisional Police Officer, Ugboha, Edo State, that on Sunday, July 3, 2022, one Rev. Father Amos Abhulimen of St. Dominic Catholic Church Ugboha, reported that he was informed by the Catholic authority via WhatsApp that the above-named Catholic Rev. Fathers were attacked, kidnapped and taken to unknown place by some kidnappers along Benin-Auchi Expressway between Ehor and Iruekpen Communities.

“Immediately, the Commissioner Of Police, CP Abutu Yaro, dispatched policemen to the area to carry out aggressive and well coordinated manhunt in arresting the kidnappers as well as rescue the Rev. Fathers unhurt,” the statement added.

A Catholic priest popularly known as Rev. Father Christopher Odia was Kidnapped last Sunday at Ikabigbo Community, Etsako West LGA and was later found dead after few hours in the bush.

 

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Court Jails APC Senator Seven Years For Fraud

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Court Jails APC Senator Seven Years For Fraud

The Senator representing Delta North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Peter Nwaoboshi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) , has been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment.

The Court of Appeal in Lagos on Friday also ordered that the senator’s two companies, Golden Touch Construction Project Ltd and Suiming Electrical Ltd, be wound up in line with the provisions of Section 22 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2021.

The court’s ruling was delivered in an appeal challenging the judgment of Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court which on June 18, 2021, discharged and acquitted the defendants on two counts of fraud and money laundering. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which arraigned him however challenged the lower court’s decision.

EFCC had arraigned the three defendants over the acquisition of a property named Guinea House, Marine Road, in Apapa, Lagos, for N805 million.

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Part of the money paid to the vendor – N322 million transferred by Suiming Electrical Ltd on behalf of Nwaoboshi and Golden Touch Construction Project Ltd – was alleged to be part of proceeds of fraud.

Earlier in his judgment, Justice Aneke said the evidence of the prosecutor “proved that the third defendant obtained a loan of N1.2 billion from Zenith Bank to purchase additional equipment and as provision of working capital”.

“It also proved that the loan of N1.2 billion together with interest of N24 million was properly granted to the third defendant .Nothing else was proved by the complainant or prosecutor in this case,” the EFCC quoted the judge as saying in a statement.

The high court judge was also quoted as claiming that a fatal blow was dealt to the case of the prosecution by its failure to call officials of Sterling Bank “to testify and probably tender exhibits F and F10. Consequently, he discharged and acquitted the defendants”.

However, ruling on the EFCC’s appeal on Friday, the Court of Appeal held that the trial judge erred in dismissing the charges against the respondents.

“The court said the prosecution had proved the ingredients of the offence and consequently found the defendants guilty as charged,” EFCC said.

 

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Drama In Court As Lawyer Appears In Priestly Attire

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VIDEO: Drama As Lawyer In Priestly Attire Appears In Court

By John Michael Ojo
There was a mild drama today at the Okpoko Magistrate Court in the Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State, as a lawyer simply identified as Ogbachalu Goshen appeared before the court in a pastoral robe.

But Ogbachalu who was standing before the magistrate, CB Mbaegbu, was denied  hearing on the ground that he was not properly attired, leading to a minor incident in the court.

READ ALSO: Female Students Can Wear Hijab To Lagos Schools – Supreme Court

However,  citing a recent Supreme Court’s judgment which supported the wearing of hijab by female students in public schools as a reference point, Ogbachalu reminded the court that it was his right to dress in his priestly attire as he was an ordained pastor and that the objection by the court to hear him, was an infringement on his fundamental human right as enshrined in section 38 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

The magistrate however disagreed his submission which only forced the court to dismiss.

 

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