Nigerian judiciary good, judges competent - Kanu Agabi

Kanu Agabi(SAN) former Athorny General and Minister of Justice -4

By Emmanuel Oloniruha

Dr Kanu Agabi, a former Attorney-General of the Federation has said contrary to the belief of some, Nigeria has a good judiciary and the judges are competent.

Agabi said his verdict on the Nigerian judiciary is based on his experience as a lawyer for 51 years.

Agabi who rated Nigeria’s judiciary better than the legislature and the executive, saying it is the best best arm of government in the country.

Agabi stated this in Abuja on Saturday, at a book launch titled “ Court and Politics” authored by Dr Umar Ardo, the former Special Adviser on Research and Strategy to former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar.

“I wish to say that speaking for the judiciary, we have a good judiciary, our judges are competent, it doesn’t mean that every one of them is good, there may be one or two here and there who are failing.

“There’s no system that is perfect, but of the three arms of government, the best arm is the judiciary, the judiciary is better than the legislature. It is better than the executive.

“Had it not been for the judiciary, this country will long have disintegrated, it is true.I’ve been a lawyer for 51 years. I work in the courts. I’m not an arbitrator. I don’t work for banks. I don’t sell land.

“I work in the courts, and when I tell you that the courts have saved this nation, please believe it,” he said.

Agabi said that Nigerian judges should not be blamed for the inconsistencies in judgments, saying that the laws should be blamed rather.
The retired justice who recalled that he was one of the lawyers that worked for one of parties in one of the 11 cases Ardo mentioned in his book, commended the courage and perseverance of the author.

He said that justice was according to law, not at random.

“I give you a typical example in election matters. The grounds must be consistent. If the grounds are inconsistent with one another or inconsistent with the relief, such a petition will fail.

“I did the petition recently where the grounds were inconsistent with one another and inconsistent with the reliefs.

“And Court of Appeal said, well, such a petition is speculative and ought not to be held. That’s the law. It’s not the fault of the judges, and it makes sense,” he said.

Agabi said the reason why the courts were congested was because people had filled a number of speculative and frivolous actions with the hope that they could manipulate the judges.

“Sometimes they tire the judges and succeed. More often than not, they fail.

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“It is not because the judges are corrupt or because they’re incompetent. No, it’s the law. The law is set to be dynamic because of the lack of experience, we go on changing them,” Agabi said.

Also speaking for the Bench, a former Judge of the High Court, Justice Ambrose Namdi, attributed some of the challenges being encountered in the judiciary to the politicians.

Namdi said while the law was clear on which court should handle certain cases, some politicians still filled some cases that lacked merits in the court leaving the judges to face the heat.

He said that the judges were handicapped sometimes because the law was specific.

He said that some of the cases in court would have been avoided if politicians had done their best.

On his part, the former National Chairman of PDP, Mr Uche Secondus, speaking for the political class, said there was need for total reform of the judiciary.

He recalled how the residence of a Justice of Appeal Court in Port Harcourt was raided by security personnel called for concerns.

He added that the inconsistent judgments on 2023 general elections on cases with the same issue had far reach implementation on the judiciary.

“Our system here in the country, be it military, be it civilian, democracy, is based on sentiments, emotions injected into our law and politics.

“I believe that we have reached that stage for all to know that we have all failed and need to repent, “ he said.

Secondus suggested that the book should be made available to all Nigerians and in all schools from primary to tertiary level, for Nigerians to learn from the past.

The former Governor of Enugu State, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, said that in the courts, justice must not just be done, but must been seen to be done.

Nwodo, former National Chairman of PDP, urged the judges to strive hard to regain the respect Nigerians.

“We used to produce the best judicial officers in Africa. While I was a child, I knew of Nigerians who were at the High Court in at the Hague because of their knowledge and performance. I didn’t hear of other African judges who were in the Hague.

“So we expect so much from you. If we criticise you is because we are not yet satisfied and we think you can do better. I think that is what the author of this book has tried to do,” Nwodo said.

He also called on political parties to allow internal democracy to strive and stop bothering the courts with avoidable cases.(NAN)

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