By Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR
The FHC Has Supervisory Jurisdiction Over The CCT
Consequently, when the Constitution referred to some courts as superior, it refers to them in terms of unlimited jurisdiction (or original jurisdiction), of same; or where such jurisdiction is limited by any statute, it means that the court so referred to as a superior court has supervisory jurisdiction over other courts not regarded as superior by the Constitution. As the Supreme Court, per Akpata, J.S.C., explained in UTIH & ORS. V. ONOYIVWE & ORS. (1991) 1 N.W.L.R. (Pt.166) 166 at 243, he dilated thus:
“There is a distinction between the original jurisdiction of the superior courts and their supervisory jurisdiction. Where a statute purports to exclude the jurisdiction of the High Court and vest jurisdiction in a tribunal or an inferior court, the High Court, in exercising its supervisory jurisdiction, not original jurisdiction, may by certiorari order quash the decision of the tribunal or inferior court either for breaching the rule of natural justice or for following the wrong procedure. It may also by a declaratory order render the tribunal’s decision null and void. Whether both the original and supervisory jurisdictions of the court or only the one on the other are affected by an ouster provision depends upon the wording of the provision of the statute or Constitution.”
The rationale for the above legal position can be gleaned when resort is further had to the decision of the Court of Appeal, in the case of O.R.L. v. N.C.C. (2007) WRN (VOL.18) 87 at 115 Lines. 25 – 40 (CA), where the intermediate court, held, per Odilli, JCA, (as she then was), thus:
”The superior courts are not expected to and do not abdicate the exercise of their constitutional supervisory judicial jurisdiction merely because of a statutory provision suggesting the exclusion or restriction of the exercise of such jurisdiction. An ouster clause merely does not put the superior court to flight. See Miscellaneous Offences Tribunal v. Okoroafor (2001) 18 NWLR (Pt.745) 295, Barclays Bank of Nigeria Ltd v. Central Bank of Nigeria (1976) 6 S.C 175, Guardian Newspaper Ltd. v. Attorney-General, Federation (1999) 9 NWLR (Pt.618) 187, Doherty v. Balewa (1961) 2 NSCC 248,”
The CCT And Its Ongoing Charade And Absurd Proceedings
The Senate President had been summoned to appear before the Tribunal on 18th September, 2015, for his arraignment, on a 13 count charge for alleged false declaration of assets and violation the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal (CCB/T) Act, on assets’ declaration. The said irregularities date back to 2003, when he was the Governor of Kwara State.
Saraki thereafter challenged the competence of the charge and the tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear the case, before the Federal High Court, Abuja, and the Judge, coram A.R. Muhammed, had, by an order, summoned the Chairman of the CCT, its members and the official from the Federal Ministry of Justice, to show cause why they should adjudicate on the said complaint.
Surprisingly, in total and reckless disregard of the valid and extant order of the Federal High Court, the CCT at its sitting of 18th September, 2015, issued a bench warrant on the Senate President and further ordered that the IGP produced Saraki on Monday 21st September, 2015, to take his plea. He boasted that as Chairman of the CCT with equal and Coordinate Jurisdiction with the Federal High Court, he was not subject to the latter’s Jurisdiction. The CCT Chairman not only maintained its obduracy and contumacy on the 21st, but he actually arraigned Saraki on the 22nd, September, 2015. All these, notwithstanding the pendency of the actions challenging his jurisdiction, at both the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal.
This is a grave affront on the entire Judiciary and is capable of making mockery of it. The court has in a plethora of cases held that such act of the CCT smacks on judicial rascality.
In the case of Olaseni Vs Olaseni (2010) 5 NWLR (PT. 1187) pg. 229-230, the Court of Appeal, held per Uwa, JCA, thus: “When an application for stay of proceedings is pending before the Court of Appeal, the best and reasonable course of action for a trial court is to adjourn the matter before it pending the determination of the application before the Court of Appeal. It borders on judicial impertinence for the trial Court to disregard the process of the Court of Appeal. It is an affront to the authority of the Court of Appeal.”
Similarly, in the case of Mohammed Vs Olawumi (1993) 4 NWLR (PT. 288); (1993) 5 SCNJ 126, the Supreme Court, per Olatawura JSC, dilated: “This unfortunate attitude in disregarding the process of the Court of Appeal borders on judicial impertinence. It is an affront to the authority of the Court of Appeal. All the Court established under our constitution. The hierarchy of Courts shows the limit and powers of each Court. To defy the authorities and powers of a higher court appears to me undesirable and distasteful. Even without the ratio of the Vaswani’s case, the best and reasonable cause of action was to have adjourned the matter before him pending the determination of the application before the Court of Appeal.”
Although the above cases concerned the Court of Appeal and Federal High Court, the template is the same once one court hierarchically has supervisory jurisdiction over another, such as the FHC over the CCT.
Furthermore, in the case of Oba Aladegbami Vs. Oba Fasanmade (1988) 3 NWLR (Pt.81) 131; (1988) 1 NSCC (Vol.19) 1087, the Supreme Court per Eso, JSC, categorically stated – “Lord Denning never said as is often claimed that a Judgment of a Court of competent jurisdiction could be ignored, if it is found for any reason to be void, without its being first set aside. He never said so and in my humble view, if he had, it is with utmost respect, not the law, for a Court of incompetent jurisdiction not necessarily of unlimited jurisdiction has jurisdiction to decide a matter rightly or wrongly. If that Court ever had jurisdiction in the matter then its decision is, without jurisdiction, void, but then should a Court of law not even decide the point? That is, the Court without jurisdiction decided without jurisdiction? Should the decision just be ignored? Surely, it would not make for peace and finality, which a decision of a Court seeks to attain. It would at least be against public policy for persons, without the backing of the Court, to pronounce a Court decision a nullity, act in breach of the decision whereas others may set out to obey it. – – It is not only desirable but necessary to have such decisions set aside first by another Court before any act is built upon it despite the colorful dictum of Lord Denning in UAC v. Macfoy”.
In Shugaba vs. Union Bank Plc (1999) LPELR-SC.69/1997, the apex court held that “Orders of the Court are to be respected and obeyed. The dignity and honour of Court cannot be maintained if its orders are treated disdainfully and scornfully without due respect. Consequently, non-compliance with an order of court makes a matter or suit incompetent”.
The point being made here is that a person is required to obey a Court Order, even if it is patently illegal, or manifestly void, or unconscionable. No one can beat his chest and pick and choose which order to obey and which not. Doing so will send us back to the Hobessian state of nature where life was short, nasty and brutish.
Flowing from the above, it behoves on the CCT Chairman as a mark of respect to judicial process to have adjourned the proceedings of 18th, 21st, and 22nd September, 2015, and answered to the summons of the Federal High Court, or have the order set aside, if it believed it was made without jurisdiction. Prudence and judicial hierarchical structure demand that this was the right thing to do in the circumstances and not put the judiciary to ridicule. One cannot but wonder why the hurry after the long wait for 12 years. Is there politics in this? Your guess is as good as mine.
Now that the CCB and CCT have suddenly woken up from their twelve year deep slumber to pursue Saraki (his pre-trial statement that he is being prosecuted because he is Senate President, is apt and famous), it is hoped that it would, with the same dexterity, go after the assets of all public office holders in Nigeria – President, VP, Senators, Representatives, Governors, Council Chairmen, etal. Let the CCB make public, the assets of all public office holders as prescribed in Section 2 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), 2011.
Though Saraki may be bruised by his simulated arraignment, the APC, Presidency and democracy may be rendered more bruised and prostrate by the ricocheting effects of humiliating the number 3 person in Nigeria. All because of politics. Hello, all, can we leave politics for a while and concentrate on governance?
Are PMB, the Judiciary, Legislature, Executive, Senate President, Chairman and Members of the CCT, APC, PDP, et al, reading and digesting this sermon on the mount?