The Nigerian Blogosphere and conventional news media were replete with pictures and reports indicating that Judges of Islamic Orientation went on a Courtesy Call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, H.E. Muhammed Buhari, to break the Ramadan Fast.
What exactly is the crux of the Matter?
President Buhari is a Party in the ongoing Presidential Election Petition currently pending before the Court of Appeal, Sitting as the Presidential Elections Tribunal, that will ultimately end up in the Supreme Court!
Some of the Judges who went on this inglorious visit to Buhari are part of the Presidential Election Petition Panel or will choose Members of the Panel, that will determine the possible Appeal of Petition at the Supreme Court.
So, this raises the issue of real likelihood of bias.
A cursory look at the pictures of the President and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Mohammed giggling at each other, leave much to be desired as it relates to Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, hereunder produced in part thereof to authenticate my claim :
RULE 1 OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT FOR JUDICIAL OFFICERS OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, 2016 STATES THUS:
1.1 Propriety and the appearance of propriety, both professional and personal, are essential elements of a Judge’s life. As members of the public expect a high standard of conduct from a Judge, he or she must, when in doubt about attending an event or receiving a gift, however small, ask himself or herself the question- “How might this look in the eyes of the public?”
1.4 The Judge must be sensitive to the need to avoid contacts that may lead people to speculate that there is a special relationship between him and someone whom the Judge may be tempted to favour in some way in the course of his judicial duties.
1.5 A Judicial Officer must avoid social relationships that are improper or may give rise to an appearance of impropriety or that may cast doubt on the ability of a Judicial Officer to decide cases impartially.
The Rules of Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, when analysed pair past (side by side ), with the assertions above unambiguously arrive at the principle of law called “Res Ipsa Loquitur”, the fact speaks for itself.
How can the Judges explain to Members of the Public that there is no personal relationship between them and the President. The whole charade creates a huge doubt in the mind of Members of the Public and raises grave issues of perceived real likelihood of bias.
It does seem that Nigeria is gradually sliding into George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where the same rules apply to the same people differently. This is in the aftermath of the Onnoghen Saga, that left a sour taste in the mouth for stakeholders in the Judiciary and can pass as an epic in depicting persecution!
Those who bring our Profession to disrepute, odium and opprobrium in the eyes of right thinking Members of the Public should bear in mind that posterity beckons and the day of reckoning shall come, where the pyrrhic fame they enjoy shall be consigned to the hall of shame when the Story is told to our children.
I am quite sure that Justice Chikwudifu Oputa, Justice Udo Udoma, Justice Taslim Elias and Justice Mohammed Bello will all be amazed in their graves at the sorry State of our Judiciary at the Federal Level!
What a shame!!
Douglas Ogbankwa Esq. is a legal practitioner