Any politician in Anambra State seeking public office who furtively goes all the way from Awka to Birnin Kudu, Jigawa State, a distance of 901.8 kilometres, to engage in what lawyers call forum shopping cannot be bestowed with an integrity award. Any politician from Anambra State who sues the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) at the Jigawa State High Court sitting at Birnin Kudu, without the party being aware of the action or the proceedings, cannot by any stretch of the imagination, be considered honest.
Any public office seeker who surreptitiously arranges for his lawyers and a political cipher to appear before the court under the impression that the lawyers and political minion are from two different camps with a view to misleading the court deserves to go to prison to serve as a deterrent to other political buccaneers.
Most Nigerians welcomed the judgment of the Special Panel of the Court of Appeal in Kano which on Tuesday, August 10, set aside the eminently controversial decision of the Jigawa State High Court at Birnin Kudu not only recognizing one Jude Okeke as the APGA National Chairman but also empowering him to send to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the name of the party’s candidate in the November 6 gubernatorial election in Anambra state.
Alarmed at the conduct of her professional colleagues, Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme of the Court of Appeal in Awka, on Monday, August 1, 2021, demanded that Justice Musa Ubale of the Birnin Kudu court and Justice BC Iheka of the Imo State High Court sitting in Owerri be punished for not just entertaining cases they knew in their hearts they had no jurisdiction to handle but also passing consequential judgments on them. This brilliant and courageous jurist also demanded that lawyers like Chibuzor Ezike be disciplined by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Disciplinary Committee for professional misconduct.
Of course, Justice Nwosu-Iheme wasn’t alone. The NBA has asked that severe action be taken against the Jigawa and Imo state high court judges as well as lawyers who took the cases to them. On Saturday, August 9, Dr Monday Ubani, chairman of the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL), issued a powerful statement chastising lawyers who take up such cases for obviously pecuniary gains. Dr Ubani, a former NBA 2nd Vice President, wrote:
That such cases are filed by lawyers, especially senior lawyers in the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, is not only shocking but increasingly disgusting. What should evoke mourning is that such lawyers usually escape disciplinary measures of the Nigerian Bar Association over the years. The resultant effect is that cases of a more bizarre nature are being regularly filed with impunity by this category of lawyers”. The NBA SPIDEL chairman continued the soul-stirring statement with the following words, citing the pathetic Anambra case:
Another legal luminary, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, has also publicly lashed out at both the judges and lawyers who got involved in the Anambra APGA leadership drama over a convention which took place in Anambra State. He demanded a commensurate punitive action against them. Groups like the League of Professionals (LAP) led by Chijioke Okoli, SAN, are writing to the appropriate authorities for immediate action against the lawyers and judges concerned. Individuals like Patrick Ikwueto, SAN, are also petitioning the NJC and the NBA.
As expected, non-lawyers, too, are dismayed at the conduct of judges and lawyers in the APGA matter. Writing on August 5, Olusegun Adeniyi, Thisday Editorial Board chairman, noted: “Ahead of the November gubernatorial election, politicians from the state are procuring court judgments from Abuja, Kano, Jigawa, Imo and several other states. The judges outside Anambra State who are dishing out ‘extracurricular’ orders/judgments and courts with coordinate jurisdictions nullifying one another must know that they are abusing their power.”
Former President Goodluck Jonathan told the Thisday Editorial Board chairman a few years ago that Anambra State politicians contesting in an election frequently enter the race with up to six court orders in their pockets each! This is not democracy but sheer anarchy. It beats our imagination that even after unscrupulous Anambra politicians have ruined the careers and reputations of judges like Wilson Egbo Egbo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Stanley Nnaji of the Enugu State High Court, Okechukwu Opene of the Court of Appeal and Adeleye Adedoyin, also of the Court of Appeal, some members of the Bench are allowing themselves to be messed up by the same crop of politicians.
What are your thoughts?