A retired judge of the Kogi State High Court, Justice Alaba Omolaye-Ajileye, has urged the public against perceiving justice from the prisms of tribe, religion, or geo-political divisions.
To him, society ought to be more concerned with whether a case was fairly decided rather than whether the justices from their geo-political zones were on the panel that decided the case.
Justice Omolaye-Ajileye spoke yesterday on “Leveraging Emerging Legal Challenges to the Rule of Law in the Prevailing Socio-Economic Realities in Nigeria” during the 9th Annual Law Week of the Badagry Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), reports The Nation.
The electronic evidence expert, who holds a PhD and lectures at Baze University, Abuja, noted that the issue of public trust, or the lack of it in the Judiciary has been the subject of renewed attention.
He referenced a recent statement by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Dattijo Muhammad on the need for securing public trust and justice.
Justice Muhammad, who spoke during a valedictory session on his behalf on October 27, called for urgent judicial reforms, including on the process of appointment of judicial officers and the importance of geopolitical balancing at the apex court.
But, the varsity lecturer reasoned that regionalising justice is secondary to the impartiality of justices.
Justice Omolaye-Ajileye said: “I quote him: ‘To ensure justice and transparency in presidential appeals from the lower court, all geo-political zones are required to participate in the hearing.
“It is, therefore, dangerous for democracy and equity for two entire regions to be left out in the decisions that will affect the generality of Nigerians.’
“The grouse of His Lordship here is that both the Northcentral and Southeast geo-political zones were not represented on the panel of Justices of the Supreme Court that decided appeals that arose from the Presidential Election Tribunal to the apex court recently. This he describes as ‘dangerous for democracy and equity.’
“While the focus of His Lordship was on the absence of Justices from the Northcentral and Southeast geo-political zones on the panel, it was easy for social media commentators to quickly draw attention to the fact that the Southwest geo-political zone that parades the Chief Justice of Nigeria and two other eminent Justices of the Supreme Court was also not represented on the panel.
“According to the commentators, it was also in order to ensure ‘transparency and equity.’ The issue is neither here nor there.”
He emphasised the need for the court to be seen by Nigerians as fair to everyone.
Justice Omolaye-Ajileye said: “My humble position here is that it is better that the Judiciary, including the Supreme Court, be perceived as a homogeneous entity that serves the interest of all.
“It is dangerous for society to perceive justice from the prisms of tribe, religion, or geo-political divisions.
“Justice ought to remain an integral whole that does not admit partition along tribal or geopolitical bifurcation. It is also more dangerous if the impartiality of the Supreme Court is to wait for people to see the extent to which they have been represented by Justices who come from their geo-political zones.
“Secondly, with due respect, to perceive justice from geo-political lines is to trivialise justice. Justice is far more important than that.
“If we accept the intrinsic worth of every human being, then justice becomes the minimum debt we owe to him, for if we deny him justice we have declared him worthless.
“The dispenser of justice should, therefore, be a person that is even-handed, blind to all social distinctions and disparities in wealth, religion, tribe, status and no respecter of persons, just as justice itself should be.
“If a nation cannot look at their judges and see men and women who are upright enough to uphold the principle of the rule of law and do justice to all manner of people without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, then, I will simply say that nation has lost it!”