NBA seeks punitive action against lawyers, judges involved

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, has summoned the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho and the Chief Judge of Kano State High Court, Justice Dije Aboki to appear before him over conflicting interim injunctions regarding the Kano Emirate tussle.

In the wake of the prevailing tussle over the emirate stoolship, Justice Simone Amobeda of the Kano division of the Federal High Court issued an order for the eviction of Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II from the Kofar Kudu Palace, reinforcing the authority of the 15th Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado Bayero.

This was shortly after Justice Amina Adamu of a High Court of Kano State had issued an injunction to protect Muhammadu Sunusi and other key figures from potential harassment by state authorities. This order prevents any interference with the Emir’s autonomy and the seizure of key symbols of his authority, such as the twin spear, the Royal Hat of Dabo, and the Ostrich-feathered shoes.

These conflicting orders have led to significant confusion regarding the rightful authority and protection of the emirs in Kano. The State High Court’s case is set for further hearing on June 13, while the Federal High Court has adjourned its case to June 4.

In a bid to addressing this judicial aberration, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ariwoola who doubles as the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), has summoned the two principal judicial officers for a meeting in his chambers on Thursday, May 30.

A statement on Wednesday by the Director, Information of the NJC, Soji Oye disclosed that there is a strong indication that the Council will convene an emergency meeting next week over the matter.

The statement reads: “sequel to the conflicting judgements emanating from the Federal High Court, and Kano State High Court of Justice on the Chieftaincy matter in Kano State, the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council, Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, has summoned the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, and Chief Judge of Kano State High Court, Hon. Justice Dije Aboki for an emergency meeting in his chambers tomorrow Thursday 30 May 2024.

The meeting which is a prelude to whole scale investigation by the National Judicial Council is to enable the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria have a proper briefing on this very disturbing development by the two respective Chief Judges.

There is strong indication that the National Judicial Council will conduct an emergency meeting next week where the subject Judges are likely to be invited and subjected to serious investigations.”

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has called for punitive actions against lawyers and Judges involved in the issuance of conflicting orders in the Kano Emirate legal tussle

The umbrella body of lawyers in the country opined that the actions of lawyers and judges have brought utter disgrace and shame to the profession and have exposed the entire legal profession in Nigeria to public ridicule and opprobrium.

In a statement by its President Yakubu Maikyau SAN on Wednesday in Abuja, the NBA vowed to drag any lawyer found culpable in the matter before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee LPDC for deserved appropriate sanctions.

The NBA boss called on the Chief Judges of the Federal High Court and his counterpart in the High Court of Kano State to identify the judicial officers involved and drag them before the National Judicial Council NJC for disciplinary action.

The statement read in part “I have keenly followed the developments on the recent events concerning the stool of the Emir of Kano.

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“I must say, without any equivocation, that the conducts of counsel and the Courts in the handling of the proceedings which culminated in the orders issued by the Federal High Court, the Kano State High Court and again the Federal High Court, in circus, have brought utter disgrace and shame to the profession – have exposed the entire legal profession in Nigeria to public ridicule and opprobrium

“The damage is one that would take the legal profession a long time to recover from. It is unfortunate and was totally uncalled for.

“For a country whose legal resources and expertise have for several decades been exported and positively impacted not only the African continent but the world at large, it is completely unacceptable that the processes of our courts would be deployed in the manner we have witnessed in the last couple of days, on a subject matter that is as clear as chieftaincy dispute.

“This is a subject that has been sufficiently dealt with by legislations and case law, leaving no one confused about the jurisprudence on the subject – both procedural and substantive.

“Without prejudice to the subsisting actions before both the Federal High Court and the Kano State High Court, it is my considered view that there is urgent need to scrutinize the professional conducts of both Counsel and the Judges involved in these matters.

“This is to enable the relevant bodies or institutions determine their culpability or otherwise, from an ethical and professional standpoint.

“I therefore call on the respective heads of the Courts of the Judges concerned, to take immediate steps to look into their conducts with the view to finding any possible abuse of their judicial offices and file a report with the National Judicial Council for necessary action.

“The NBA on the other hand will investigate the conducts of the counsel involved in these cases and shall not hesitate to commence disciplinary action against them before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, should there be any finding of alleged professional misconduct against them.

“The Chairman of the NBA Ethics and Disciplinary Committee has accordingly been directed to invite these counsel for preliminary investigations.

“While the NBA shall continue to stand for and protect the integrity, welfare, and independence of the Bar and the Judiciary, we shall not hesitate to call out any Judge or counsel, who engages in any professional misconduct.

“We have consistently maintained that the institution of the Judiciary must be guarded jealously by all (both within and outside the legal profession) including the other arms of Government (Executive and Legislature), because the existence, peace, growth, development of any nation is intricately connected with the primary responsibility of the judiciary which is the dispensation of Justice.

“Sheikh Othman DanFodiyo was reported to have said – “a people can exist without religion but they cannot exist without justice”.

“Let us quit being religious as a people and begin to search for God and Justice for the people, in order to attain the peace we must all desire for the benefit of our nation.

“The legal profession as a whole (Bench and Bar) must at all times, resist any attempt to compromise its independence, as when this is allowed, we will fail in our noble call and assignment of providing direction to the people and advancing the cause of our nation within the confines of the rule of law.

“The respect in which the legal profession in any country is held, is the best indicator of the freedom enjoyed by that country. We must therefore bring erring members of the profession to book to regain the respect we must have to lead Nigeria to its pride of place in the comity of nations,” the statement said.

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