Outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed on Monday hinted that heads would soon roll in the judiciary over recent conflicting judgments entered by judges of the nation’s high court bench sitting in different judicial divisions on the same dispute between the same opposing parties.
Justice Mahmud gave the hint at a special session of the Supreme Court to mark the commencement of the 2016/2017 legal year and conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on 22 distinguished senior lawyers in the country..
He spoke in response to a call by the representative of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), Chief Thompson Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN) at the occasion regarding what the National Judicial Council was doing about the affected judges involved in the mess.
Although foremost lawyer, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) is the Cchairman of the BOSAN, Chief Okpoko (SAN), a one-time President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) prepared and read the speech of the body at the special session of the court.
Okpoko (SAN) had specifically told the outgoing CJN that there was no way the judiciary could keep quiet over the mess.
His words: “In our nation as it stands today, no one needs to be told that the Bar and the Bench are at a crossroad.
“For the judiciary, the nation in the recent past has witnessed the show of shame brought about by court coordinate jurisdiction assuming jurisdiction to hear the same dispute between the same parties and delivering verdicts that are totally in conflict with one another.
“For the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the National Judicial Council, this is a very embarrassing development and I call on the regulatory authorities to step in immediately to do a damage control so as to save our justice system from further ridicule.
“This is not just a matter of corruption. Conflicting judgments go to the very root of the judicial system.
“If the established principle that trial courts have no power to set aside their own judgment except in well-established circumstances; the principle that courts of coordinate jurisdiction cannot overrule themselves or set aside each other judgment; that the Court of Appeal itself cannot overrule itself, are all in place, one wonders how come that conflicting judgments still rear their ugly heads.
“The National Judicial Council has to let Nigerians know what went wrong and what measures have been taken to prevent recurrence,” Okpoko had said.
Although the CJN, Justice Mahmud had already delivered his paper with no opportunity to react to the concern raised by the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), he however leveraged on his chairmanship of the special session to answer BOSAN.
According to Justice Mahmud, the National Judicial Council (NJC) had already received a couple of petitions regarding the matter and had since commenced investigation.
The CJN said that all the circumstances surrounding the embarrassing situation would be investigated with verdict entered either in favour or against the affected judicial officers depending on the facts of the case and the applicable laws, adding that in the event any of them was found wanting, he said heads would definitely roll.
He concluded with an assurance that the judiciary was not taking the atter lightly.
Bar and Bench Watch reports that cases of conflicting judgments by courts of coordinate jurisdiction in some public interest litigations including the leadership tussle in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the pre-election dispute arising from the gubernatorial primary conducted by the PDP in Abia State had really heated the polity.
The conflicting judgments entered in the cases and the inevitable confusion created by the verdicts offered all manners of people to take the judiciary to the cleaners, a development which BOSAN said required urgent damage control.