I do not agree that the independence of the Judiciary failed- Prof Justice Peter Umeadi Speaks
Chief Justice Peter Umeadi, Former Chief Judge of Anambra State and APGA Presidential Candidate has in an exclusive interview stated that he does not believe that the independence of the judiciary has failed.
Below is the Interview:
LAW PERSONALITY INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Independence for the judiciary have failed and how do you think we can get it right this time around?
I do not agree that the independence of the Judiciary failed. No, not at any time. Permit me to bring up excerpts from The 8th Dignity of Man Lecture which I was privileged to delivered during the 56th Founders Day Celebrations of University of Nigeria Nisukka on Friday October 7th 2016 at the famous Princess Alexandria Auditorium UNN. The title is Rule of Law as Foundation of any Nation. “Our Judiciary have exhibited patriotism, erudition, lucidity, candour and courage in their work. Our Judiciary have kept in full view the expectations of prosperity, safety, wellbeing, the respectability and dignity of our citizens. The work of our Judiciary are embedded in the respect and observance of the immutable, inevitable, inscrutable adherence and acquiescence and upholding of the rule of law. Suit No. SC/58/69 (1) E.O. Lakanmi (2) Kikelomo Ola (by her guardian and next friend E.O. Lakanmi) versus (1) The Attorney General (west) (2) The Secretary to the Tribunal (3) The counsel to the Tribunal came up to the Supreme Court in 1969. I think this one monumental work, relevant to the topic of today stands in good credit to the Nigerian Judiciary………… In unraveling the matrix of the facts, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, exhibited uncommon commitment to work and dexterity when it elected, on its own, to delve into issues which arose but which the court below did not deal with. Listen again to portion of the Judgement of the Supreme Court in Lakanmi’s case (supra) inter alia “we are in no doubt that the object of the Federal Military Government when it engaged in this exercise is to clean up a section of the society which had engaged itself in corrupt practices – those vampires in the society whose occupation was to enrich themselves at the expense of the country. But if, in this pursuit the Government however well-meaning, fell into the error of passing legislation which specifically in effect, passed judgement and inflicted punishment or in other words eroded the jurisdiction of the courts, in a manner that the dignity and freedom of the individual, once assured, are taken away, the courts must intervene. (the underlining is mine) Every case we reiterate, must be considered on its own facts and the materials placed before us in this matter lead to no other conclusion than that the provision of the Decree No. 45 of 1968 are such as are not reasonably necessary to achieve the purpose which the Federal Military Government set out to fulfill. This appeal will therefore be allowed and both Edict No. 5 of 1967 and Decree No. 45 of 1968 are declared ultra vires; they are null and void”…. Let us bring to mind the situation in Nigeria in 1969 when this matter came up to the Supreme Court up till 1970 when the judgement was delivered! Far from losing her independence the Judiciary in Nigeria is populated with jurists of caliber, pedigree, honesty forthrightness courage and many sterling qualities. The Election Tribunal of which I was a member heard the Petition No. EDGV/EPT/1/07 Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomole & Anor v INEC & 21 Ors. On Thursday 20/3/2008, I had the singular privilege, while delivering the unanimous judgement, to refer to the Judiciary in Nigeria as follows “On our part, we with humility shall repeat the words of Sir Isaac Newton and say that we are standing on the shoulders of giants, giants of the Nigerian Judiciary which have afforded us all the judicial precedents we have used” What failed is the lack of political will, the collective stand of the Bar for which the Judiciary is their place of work, the voice of the public and mainstream media to insist that proper, adequate and unfettered funding be made available to the Judiciary necessary to maintain her independence. Late President Musa Yar’ Adua on an event to open the biannual Judges Conference promised to make the Governors to comply with the Constitution of Nigeria and fund the State Judiciaries as required. He kept his word soon after at the National Council of State Meeting which followed where he told the Governors in clear language to go home and implement S 121 (3) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999. Soon after he fell ill and did not recover. The Judiciary lost a great ally in the struggle. It was said that he as Governor of Kastina State implemented financial autonomy with all the arms government in the State. It is a happy coincidence that another President from Kastina signed the Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 into law.