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JURISPRUDENCE: Supreme Court’s National Embarrassment And Separation Of Powers -By Richard Odusanya

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Paradoxically, it is the same Apex Court in disarray, that is to be the last hope of the common-man as they say in the local parlance – a case of a house divided against itself, this is certainly the consequences of ambiguity in the spirit and letters of the 1999 constitution as amended to 2018, as well as the processes of nomination, screening and confirmation of the headship of the Apex Court – in this case the chief justice of the supreme court of Nigeria.

The term “trias politica” or “separation of powers” was coined by Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, an 18th century French social and political philosopher. His publication, Spirit of the Laws, is considered one of the great works in the history of political theory and jurisprudence, and it inspired the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Constitution of the United States. Under his model, the political authority of the state is divided into legislative, executive and judicial powers. He asserted that, to most effectively promote liberty, these three powers must be separate and acting independently.

Separation of powers, therefore, refers to the division of government responsibilities into distinct branches to limit any one branch from exercising the core functions of another. The intent is to prevent the concentration of power and provide for checks and balances. The intention behind a system of separated powers is to prevent the concentration of power by providing for checks and balances. The separation of powers model is often imprecisely and metonymically used interchangeably with the trias political principle. While the trias politica model is a common type of separation, there are governments that have more or fewer separation than three branches.

Unarguably, the Constitution of Nigeria is the supreme law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Unfortunately, by reason of omission the 1999, constitution as amended to 2018, did not take full cognizance of so many issues. Particularly, the issue of separation of powers – as such, history has time and again shown that unlimited power in the hands of one person or group in most cases means that others are suppressed or their powers encroached – as exemplified by the arbitrariness of the executive branch in the case of the removal of former chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Samuel Onnoghen, the then (CJN) had said; “My unconstitutional removal in the lead-up to the 2019 general election is a testament that the country’s judiciary is on life support.”

Therefore, focusing on the Jurisprudence, socio-economic and political malaise that has continued to play out since the beginning of the fourth republic. Over the course of history, there have been many forms of the definition of jurisprudence. Romans liked to call it the observation of all things human, combined with the knowledge of the just and unjust. Salmond defines it as the science of the very first principles of civil law. It is also known as the science or philosophy of positive law. There is no one correct definition of jurisprudence, all of these are correct in their own regard.

In likewise, our beloved country Nigeria, is mired in a crisis of governance. Twenty-two years since the end of military rule, the country’s longest-ever stretch of uninterrupted civilian government, the conduct of many public officials and government institutions is so pervasively marked by maladministration, violence and corruption as to more resemble criminal activity than democratic governance – basis for adjudication, in adjudication as the essence of fair decisionmaking – many judges believe there is a growing number of aggressive or inept…. political – a very clear example is the animosity between the fourteen supreme court justices and the current Chief Justice of the court.

Flowing from the above and the unfortunate issue of the leaked protest letter by 14 justices of the supreme court, and the response of Hon. Mr. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad CFR. The unmitigated crisis is not just the shame of the judiciary, especially when it comes from the very pinnacle of that institution, it is the disgrace of the country that harbours such an institution. The justices had in a recent letter to the CJN, which was leaked to the public, protested the non-payment of their legitimate entitlements for a prolonged period of time – the sad development happens to be the first in the history of the Apex Court and akin to dancing naked in the public.

Paradoxically, it is the same Apex Court in disarray, that is to be the last hope of the common-man as they say in the local parlance – a case of a house divided against itself, this is certainly the consequences of ambiguity in the spirit and letters of the 1999 constitution as amended to 2018, as well as the processes of nomination, screening and confirmation of the headship of the Apex Court – in this case the chief justice of the supreme court of Nigeria.

Without doubt and as a result of the impasse in judiciary, the Nigerian state stood in between exhibiting attributes of state collapse and state failure. According to a professor of Political Science, Oluwafemi Mimiko, the Nigerian state has degenerated to the point where it is unable to provide minimal social security for its vulnerable population. This is because economic and social development depends on an effective legislation and judicial system. Against this background, this article attempts to discuss linkage and impact of judicial experience in economic development.

The article elucidates the rationale of the framers of 1999 constitution, considers separation of powers and how the laws have shaped the environment bearing in mind current critiques of the rules, and outlines tasks and choices for updating the rules. Hence, it support the assertion that a holistic approach to the resolution in the crisis brewing in temple of justice can only be found in a brand new constitution that is devoid of ambiguity and peoples friendly.

In my humble opinion and conclusion, there are some pertinent question about the sincerity and altruism on the part of the framers of the constitution of 1999, as amended to 2018: is there a genuine intention of separation of powers? Did the document consider the following; checks and balances of powers? Executive branch and the legislative branch conflicts? The role of the ‘adjudicator’ which in this case is the judiciary? Finally, I daresay that the country’s constitution is dire need of review. Therefore, the need for a proper evaluation as we approach the 2023 general elections.

ARISE ‘O COMPATRIOTS.

Richard Odusanya is a Social Reform Crusader and the convener of AFRICA COVENANT RESCUE INITIATIVE ACRI.

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