A Court of Appeal Justice Ebiowei Tobi has hinted that the provisions in the codes of conduct may not be a panacea to the much touted judicial inconsistencies after all, but it can only regulate the “people who are agreed to be regulated by it.”
The erudite jurist advised that people should stop the blame game of putting inconsistency on the judges and rather see it as a community problem that all can work together to bring about a solution.
He shared this view on Wednesday while speaking on a plenary session titled: “Lack Of Consistency in Judicial Pronouncement In Nigeria; Code Of Conduct To The Rescue,” moderated by Jean Chiazor Anishere, SAN.
The plenary session was a breakout in an ongoing 62nd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA-AGC, theme: “Bold Transition” which had resource persons both from the bench and the inner bar.
The appeal court judge said that he is emboldened to make some of the pronouncement he will make, just as the theme of the 2022 conference signifies boldness.
He also said that the theme for the plenary is very contemporary as it has given the judiciary and legal profession a bad name within the public domain.
“The topic tends to give the impression that there are more inconsistencies in judgements of court than consistency and I hope that was not the intention of the organisers.
“The narrative is not as so damaging as it is in the public domain; There are more consistencies in our courts than there are inconsistencies.”
Further, Justice Ebiowei Tobi said, “If you look at the scenario of inconsistency, it is like a man wearing a white cloth with an oil spot on it. No one sees the white but only the stain. Everyone guided by social media report of cases rather than reading the judgement itself; they instead proceed to shred the judge, and the judgement.”
“We must stop the blame game of putting inconsistency on the judges and rather see it as a community problem that we all can work together to bring about a solution; If we do otherwise, it is not just the judiciary we bring down but the entire legal profession,” he submitted.
The judge however said that one cannot completely eradicate inconsistencies but can only stem the tide to its barest minimum.
“Yes we have a problem to tackle but is the code of conduct the solution? If a judge sees a situation from his perspective are we going to see it as an inconsistency because other judges see it differently?
“A court”s exercise of a discretion that does not fall in line with the decision of others cannot fall within the description of inconsistency! No doubts, there are inconsistencies but the next stage is to identify the problem and then proffer solution.
Hence, he said he was not inspired to attend the program to say what people want to hear but inspired to say the truth.
He emphasised on some of the reasons for inconsistencies, according to him, it is the lack of knowledge and laziness of judicial officers.
He added that the legal profession have sadly co-towed in the whims of political officers to do their bidding. “Politicians should leave us alone to do our work to the best of our ability.”
The judge said that knowledge is good but a greater consideration for appointment of a judge should be integrity as it is even weightier than knowledge.
He advised the bench to be firm and bold in the dispensation of their duties.
“The court is yours and at the end you will appear before your God to give account personally and nobody will be there to applaud or sympathise with you; A judge should not allow himself to be influenced by anyone.
“That there are inconsistencies in the judgement of a court does not make a judge corrupt except you can show circumstances, but you must draw the line as a judge and not rigmarole with politicians; they will simply use you and dump you” he said.
On the contribution of lawyers to inconsistencies Justice Tobi said lawyers were also complicit in facilitating the much talked about issue of inconsistency.
“Not all clients have the audacity to approach a judge to influence his case; they have facilitators and these facilitators are lawyers; Yet, same lawyers are complaining that judges are corrupt when you are involved in forum shopping.
“It is my earnest plea that lawyers do their work and allow the judges do theirs. It is most likely that a lawyer who wins all his cases in court, influences its outcome.
“If as a lawyer in 10 years of practice and you win all your cases then you are a suspect,” he said.