You will know it when they want to make a deliberate statement in the delivery of their considered opinions (judgments), particularly justices of the two appellate courts; Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. That is when they go for the jugular of the trial judge at the lower court in a case on appeal. Nothing would explain such outing as not being a premeditated voyage. First, if there isn’t an axe to grind with the personality involved, the judgment of a lower court judge could be reviewed and faulted solely on the basis of law, legality and constitutionality, without any reducing reference to the professionalism exhibited in such judgment. One common legal commodity being employed in such “clean” circumstance is “err.” The appellate judges would simply say that the trial judge “erred in law” by coming to certain conclusions and his/her verdict would be upturned.
Two, appellate courts are meant to correct “limited” legal understanding of lower court judges as it were, so there should ordinarily be no big deal to a judge of a lower court erring in law, in arriving at certain conclusions.
Three, cases are primed to start from the lower courts, no matter how “big” the heart of the matter, except constitutional cases between layers of government i.e. federal vs. states or arms of government; the kind that took place between the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan and the 7th National Assembly. This is to give parties opportunities for justice to be perceivably done and that also accounts for the order of ascension of judicial officers, starting with the supposedly least knowledgeable.
Four, appellate courts are also deliberately made not to be a one-man show like the trial lower courts, since two heads are always considered to be better than one. In the case of the Court of Appeal, it is three heads and five for any Supreme Court normal sitting and even seven during constitutional logjam!
So, why would three heads at the Court of Appeal in Abuja decide to simultaneously and unanimously knock Justice OkonAbang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, over his judgment sacking Abia State governor,OkezieIkpeazu so hurtful, to make him a play-thing on the social media? A head still wigged!
Without subjecting Justice Helen Ogunwumiju’s appeal panel’s worst of Abang to any morality, objectivity or subjectivity scrutiny, the message, I hold, should not be passed alongside the messengers who arguably didn’t spare “a learned comrade” for “someone” to know.
The riddle to unravel, is “know what”? Abang was so battered in the appeal overturning his judgment that such demeanisation (accept my neologism) could have gone unchallenged only in the judiciary of full respect for seniority, ethics and order. It would be unheard of, for a lower court judge to reply a Court of Appeal. Rebels like Justices Ayo Salami and OkechukwuOkeke, who challenged higher authorities, didn’t exit service comfortingly.
It is not unlikely that Ogunwumiju’s panel was only speaking to a perceived systemic rot, expected to be cleansed by the somewhat-docile current leadership, but the “bombing” had more devastating effect in the public sphere, mostly the social media. Twitter creation; #IfJusticeAbanghadthepower trended like a sizzling Nollywood closet scoop. Crude conjectures, not worthy of repeat here, were fathomed. Creativity exceeded its limit. But as Nigerians gave vent to the limitless mischief their fertile imaginations could birth, a disturbing trend was very clear. Every listed plausibility against the embattled judge, had the pecuniary as motivation. That was Nigerians’ crude interpretation of the Appeal Court outburst.
With a Judiciary behaving, thought and seen as becoming a worthless hireling of the political class, Justice Abang and a couple of others, especially of coordinate jurisdiction, have now become a major part of the political problem to be solved in the main opposition PDP. The activities of the said judges, particularly Abang, in matters, crossing ruling APC and PDP, are making many, including INEC, to wonder if the nation’s judiciary, particularly the Federal High Court, isn’t on auto-pilot.
I’m privy to an on-going discussion to phase-out the Federal High Court, leaving its state counterpart with the main trial and the two appellate courts, doing “superior” justice. There was a tension-soaked discussion at the National Judicial Institute late last year, where senior judicial officers, particularly State Chief Judges, pointedly accused judges of the Federal High Court of sickening corruption, only stopping short of mentioning names of the alleged corrupt judges who were in attendance.
There was also a memorable drama of a CJ describing an alleged corrupt judge to the skin of his teeth, making reference to his trademark “bowler hat, long suit and walking stick.” Well, the “bowler” judge defended himself at the meeting because the description was too poignant to be ignored. But pray, which ethical judge go about dandy like a gangster, cowboy or movie villain!
Recently, for hours, I was guest of this “bowler” judge.
(To be continued)
Wale Bolorunduro @50
There was a buzz in Osun political firmament when he became the Commissioner for Finance at 44 in 2010. Many were dazed he was achieving such a dizzying height at that age, considering his portfolio as the juiciest, going by the current public service mentality of “one for the people, 100 for me.” The truth however is, apart from countless Nigerians achieving greater milestones at much younger ages, Dr Wale Bolorunduro, came to the job as a made banker.
Well, my Ijesa-brother has done his bit and best for the state. Posterity will situate his contributions. His coming autobiography should also speak to burning issues about his stewardship vis-a-vis, the state’s finances.
While this O.A.U First Class metallurgical and material engineer-turned- financial banker may not be able to answer affirmatively if he is still in government, he can at least tell you that on September 7, he will toe the golden path. Here is a toast to an authentic home-grown brand.