By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade has commended the Nigerian judiciary for positively shaping the way politics is being played in the country as politicians now know buying political offices through court judgments is no longer possible.
Mr. Ayade who said that judicial officers hold the key to shape the way the world thinks about the black man due to Nigeria’s position made the commendation when the Chief Justice of the federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen paid him a courtesy visit in his office on Monday in Calabar as part of his itinerary leading to the commissioning of the new building housing the Calabar division of the Appeal court.
“So far, I have been impressed because I think gradually you have helped change the politics of people thinking that they can win elections in court. So far, I am shocked at the level at which people are now willing to settle their political differences because they know the court is no longer available for sale,” Ayade said, adding that: “I want to commend you and I commend all justices of this country for the pride, for the change, for the independence I see gradually asserting.”
The governor who lamented that the judicial system was one that was codified and does not take into cognizance, the social pressure that influences certain actions deemed criminal called for a reform in the face of the changing dynamics at play in the judicial systems across the world.
He averred that “As people who hold that catalytic balance between the legislature and the executive, you are ultimately the number one in the country that manages that balance to ensure that there is fairness and justice.
“Unfortunately because we run a codified system of government, it does not allow you the luxury of your personal interpretation of issues as they come before you. But, the real truth is; as law migrates from common law to equity and going into a final level of jurisprudence, time has come when we must sit back and ask ourselves if the essence of the judiciary is being met.”
Continuing, Ayade argued that the court has the powers within the ambits of legal provisions to make laws by virtue of the fact that the history of law is derived from norms, judicial precedence and court pronouncements. He sued for a shift from the idea of “if we do this, this is your penalty.”
“We must not continue to draw our rulings based on the prescription of the law. It is only a guidance, but the greater guidance is Kantianism, it is morality, it is good conscience, it is fairness, it is ensuring that warring parties that come before leave as friends, as brothers and as sisters. That is the essence of the judiciary, that is the essence of the law, that is the philosophy that guides the existence of this third arm of government.
“Until we reach that level where that poor person, where that rich person come before you and gets the same treatment as any other; until we get to a point where the social pressure that pushes somebody to steal for survival, finds a special provision in the law to address such issues because in our judicial system today, social pressure which is the critical factor that brings out the animalism in us has not been expressed or provided for.
“That is left for you as a presiding judge to make a decision on people whose fate is driven by factors beyond their own tolerance limit. Therefore, you are like the gods of men on earth. Whether it is almighty Allah or God himself in heaven, he dispenses his justice through you. you are therefore the instruments, the manifestations of God’s own work in the creation of mankind. You hold a very very dear position in the history of man, your decision will alter the international perception of Nigeria.
“Your action, conduct and attitude will represent a changing dynamics that is required to change the impression on the black man in the world. You hold a very peculiar situation in history because indeed if the judiciary remains firm the way you have been in the last few years. If the judiciary remains clean and absolute the way you have been in the last few years, then there is hope for the black man, then there is hope for the common man, then there is hope for the prosperity of Africa. Africa’s wealth, Africa’s history, Africa’s future depends on you,” Ayade said.
Also he called for more fairness in the dispensation of justice as, “even in the karmic law, even in the Venic literature, you will realize that your decisions will have impact today or tomorrow, if not on you, on your own children and children’s children children.”
On his part, Onnoghen said he was happy the new appeal court structure was been commissioned despite several setbacks and called for the restoration of its former structure that was the country’s first court.
“I am happy that the Calabar division of the Court of Appeal has a befitting structure where we sit to dispense justice to our people after many challenges some of which were very very really serious at certain stages in or history,” Onnoghen said and disclosed that there were attempts to relocated the division.
On the former structure which is located just before the Peregrino lodge which is the official residence of governors in the state, Onnoghen averred that: “When the court of appeal came to Calabar from Enugu because that is where we were going to appeal including Rivers which was first sized out, the court was housed in a very unique building of the judiciary, of great antiquity and history behind it, the Supreme Court of Southern Nigeria is the name of that court, that building, and it is clearly inscribed on the chair on which the chief judge of this state use to sit.
“But, when the court of appeal came, that structure was handed over to the court of appeal, deservingly so for the continuation of the history of the judiciary in this country. Unfortunately, some mishap has happened to the structure. I will seize this opportunity to seek the assistance of government and people of this state, to do whatever you can do, to in fact if possible get the federal government involved and any other agency of government that can, those, including the preservation of national monuments to be interested in restoring that structure.
“It will be a great landmark in the history of this country and Cross River State in particular because you cannot run away from the fact that happened to be the very first seat of the Judiciary in this country. It was the Supreme Court of southern Nigeria before the capital moved to Lagos.”
Ayade later accompanied Onnoghen, his wife, the president of the court of appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa among others for the commissioning of the court.
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