Tue. Apr 20th, 2021

‘Before The Supreme Court On Monday’

Barrister Johnson O. Esezoobo

‘Before The Supreme Court On Monday‘ By Johnson O. Esezoobo Esq

Year 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of my secondary in my village in Edo State. I was one of the pioneer students. We started planning for the anniversary celebration for October 30, 2019, and thanksgiving on November 1, 2019. Every one of us, old students and friends was anxious to meet again, after 50years.

But regrettably I was not going to be at that great occasion. Why? “I am before the Supreme Court on Monday the 4th of November 2019”. 

It was obviously not convenient to attend and get back to Lagos to catch a flight to Abuja. And all my mates and friends rained prayers for journey mercies and of success because they saw appearing before the Supreme Court a greater thing than attending the occasion of our 50 anniversary.

Now, what happened at the Supreme Court on Monday the 4th of November 2019? The appellant did not show up. And the Apex Court was disposed to giving them “another chance” after having given them a chance before. The appeal was filed in 2015 and by 2017, the Court admonished a withdrawal of my motion to dismiss the same for lack of diligent prosecution to allow them “put their house in order”. The Court was not persuaded that “They have no house to put in order” and that “the appeal was taken out to oppress me…”.

The motion for dismissal having been withdrawal, the Court granted the appellant’s motion for extension of time to “Compile and transmit record within 14 days”.

Without having transmitted record, the appellant again rushed in a motion for extension of time to file appellant’s Brief in reaction to a new motion, a second one in four years from 2015, to dismiss the appeal for lack of diligent prosecution. And at the call up of the case the apex Court was to give “another chance to put their house in order”.

And I said “My Lord how can a man who filed a motion for extension of time to file Appellant’s Brief without having compiled/transmitted record be said to have a house to put in order”. I want to take my motion to dismiss the appeal for lack of diligent prosecution. This court is the highest Court of the Land. When we tell people out there that we are going to the Supreme Court, we are rated very highly. To see that what we do at the trial Court and the Court of Appeal can be done here is a serious matter. 

This is exactly what they did at the Court of Appeal that made the case last for 8 (eight) years, a case of enforcement of a fundamental rights, not a chieftaincy or land dispute…” And the Court adjourned. Till date since 2019, no new date has been given. And the appeal can be said to be abandoned as no further step has been taken by the appellant to put their house in order.

Truly, for those with passion for law, appearing before the Apex Court should be seen as a feat, a mark of accomplishment in the profession as the Court should be the nation’s true “temple of justice”. My first experience in the apex Court practice was in 2012, in the case of Ekunola v CBN [2012] ………….. (Pt.1277) …. I was caught in the web of improper distinction between grounds of law and of mixed law and fact. And I said to the apex Court that it was not neat to keep a matter in the docket for as long as six to ten years only to come to the court say appeal is struck out for being incompetent because leave was not obtained where leave is necessary to ground the appeal. The Court could by an administrative process get the processes screened and where there are such defects that can be cured, get the parties to rectify the errors and get the appeal heard on the merits. Alternatively, by an administrative process, get the appeal dealt with summarily so that parties can go and rest. 

One of the Justices retorted “You want to change the law? You cannot change the law. If you want to change the law, go and bring a Bill before the National Assemble to change the law….” At this I remembered Lord Denning M R of blessed memory, when he recounted how much his pronouncements inspired reform of laws in his time.

In contrast is the above comment which seems to suggest that the law we pronounce by way of dictum as Judges is not meant to change society but to adorn the law reports.

But as it is certain we cannot make progress as a people if we keep doing the same thing the same way and not change, let us from now strive to change the law. We must change the law.

The Court is commonly called ‘The temple of justice’. Truly so, the Supreme Court should be the epitome of that temple of justice. And as the temple of justice the Supreme Court should be wary of keeping cases in the docket for too long; as long as six to eight or ten eleven years against its various pronouncements that abhor delay in the administration of justice. It smacks of hypocrisy to lament over delay in administration of justice and yet be involved in or be part of it by commission or omission. 

If today Nigeria has been boxed to a point where everyone is now clamouring for RESTRUCTURING, we must all look at how we have contributed or are contributing to the situation that is causing the call for it. This is a way of saying there must be self restructuring.

In other words, the Apex Court needs to do more than it’s currently doing in terms of attitude, performance and commitment to the administration of justice to foster the much vaunted peace and security architecture of the country to avoid it’s imminent total collapse. The apex Court should appreciate its sensitive position the life of this Country; by the principle of stares decisis when the Court coughs or sneezes, all other Courts are bound irrespective of whether the coughing or sneezing is appreciate or inappropriate. 

Thus, any contradiction or inconsistency or not well reasoned out pronouncement of the Court has a far reaching effect on the socio-political and economic condition of the country. With particular reference to the theme of this piece, and WHAT HAPPENED ON MONDAY THE 4TH OF NOVEMBER 2019, I should like to impress total overhaul of the apex Court. Over a year and half since 2019 that I made all the noise, I am appearing in the Supreme Court on Monday, which was accepted by my secondary school mates as good excuse to be absent from our 50 years anniversary, I have no report to give of the next date much more of the fate of the case itself. 

This is unacceptable. If a trial Court where witnesses are called and evidence is taken, a case can be done in two to three years, let commend the NICN for this, then I still find it intriguing that our Apex Court cannot do a case for one to two years after completion and exchange of briefs. The situation calls for restructuring.

Johnson O. Esezoobo can be reached via-: +234 803 320 0595