Professor Elias Nankap Lamle, a distinguished social and cultural anthropologist with a multi-disciplinary background, has undertaken an insightful analysis of the case involving the 21 legislatures in Plateau State. Combining his expertise in anthropology and law, Professor Lamle sheds light on the complex interplay between legal finality and fairness within the Nigerian Supreme Court’s purview.
Professor Lamle’s engagement with this issue stems from his ethical commitment to contribute to discussions of public interest. His interdisciplinary approach, bridging anthropology and law, aims to provide a comprehensive perspective that goes beyond the confines of legal proceedings.
Professor Elias Nankap Lamle Writes:
As a social and cultural anthropologist, with a multi-disciplinary background, including expertise in law, I find myself compelled by the ethical principles of my profession to contribute to discussions on matters of public interest. In light of this obligation, I have dedicated time and effort to delve into the case involving the 21 legislatures in Plateau State.
It is essential to clarify that my intention is not to pass judgment on the decisions of any court involved in the case. Instead, my engagement with this issue is rooted in the application of rational thought processes within the framework of my diverse disciplinary background.
In this context, I aim to provide insights and observations that transcend legal proceedings, offering a perspective informed by anthropological and legal considerations. By doing so, I aspire to contribute to a broader understanding of the complexities surrounding the case, taking into account cultural, social, and legal dimensions.
It is crucial to emphasize that my analysis is not a substitute for legal expertise, nor does it seek to challenge or undermine the authority of the judiciary. Rather, it is a scholarly endeavor to stimulate constructive discourse and foster a holistic comprehension of the nuanced factors at play in this particular case involving the 21 legislatures in Plateau State.
In summary, the case involving the 21 Plateau State Legislatures which the Appeal Court sacked raises complex legal and procedural issues. The Nigerian Supreme Court, as the highest judicial body, plays a crucial role in interpreting and upholding the Constitution, ensuring fair hearings, and correcting legal anomalies. Here’s a comprehensive summary of the key points in the case involving the 21 legislature from Plateau State.
Role of the Nigerian Supreme Court:
The Nigerian Supreme Court serves as the final court of appeal and has various functions, including appellate jurisdiction, constitutional interpretation, advisory jurisdiction, judicial review, settling legal disputes, and acting as the guardian of the constitution.
Appeal Court Decision and Supreme Court Intervention:
The 21 legislators were sacked by the Appeal Court, which claimed that the PDP lacked the necessary political structures in Plateau State. The Supreme Court, in a separate case involving the governor of Plateau State, ruled that the PDP did have the structures to host candidates, including the 21 legislators.
Nigerian electoral laws specify that cases for legislators will end at the Appeal Court, implying a level of finality to appellate decisions. The principle of res judicata may limit the reopening of issues already conclusively decided by the Appeal Court.
Supreme Court Precedence:
The Supreme Court’s emphasis on its precedents and the hierarchy in the judiciary underscores the importance of following apex court decisions.
Writ of Certiorari:
The 21 legislators have the right to ask for the possibility of pursuing a writ of certiorari to scrutinize the Appeal Court’s decision. However, the likelihood of success hinges on the prevailing legal framework and the specific circumstances surrounding the case. Given the dynamic nature of the Nigerian legal profession, it is plausible to explore the option of borrowing a Writ of Certiorari from a jurisdiction such as the USA to reassess the cases of the 21 dismissed legislators. This would entail initiating a review of the cases before different judges.
It is essential to acknowledge a potential complication: the Supreme Court has asserted that there were procedural errors during the trial at the Appeal Court. This caveat adds a layer of complexity to the situation, as it raises concerns about the integrity of the legal proceedings. Consequently, careful consideration and strategic planning would be required to navigate the intricacies of the legal landscape and maximize the chances of a favorable outcome for the legislators.
Supreme Court’s Observations on Abuses:
If the Supreme Court observes that legal procedures have been abused, it has the authority to intervene, correct errors of law, and uphold the rule of law. The court is duty-bound to protect constitutional rights, including the right to a fair hearing.
While the legal options available to the 21 legislators may have limitations due to the finality of decisions and res judicata principles, the Supreme Court, as the guardian of the constitution, has the authority to intervene if it perceives abuses in legal procedures. The case underscores the intricate balance between the finality of judgments and the need for justice, requiring careful consideration of legal principles and precedents.
When the Nigerian Supreme Court observes that legal procedures have been abused, it has the authority to intervene and correct errors of law to uphold the rule of law. The correction of such abuses typically involves the following mechanisms:
Setting Aside or Overturning Decisions:
If the Supreme Court determines that the lower court, in this case, the Appeal Court, did not follow appropriate court procedures and that legal procedures were abused, it may set aside or overturn the decision of the lower court. This nullifies the erroneous decision and restores the legal proceedings to a just and fair state.
Issuing Corrective Directives:
The Supreme Court may issue directives to the lower court, outlining the correct legal procedures and principles that should have been followed. These directives serve as guidance to ensure that future proceedings adhere to established legal norms.
Providing Legal Clarifications:
The Supreme Court may use its judgment to provide legal clarifications on points of law, emphasizing the correct procedures and legal principles that should be applied. This helps to establish a clear legal framework for similar cases in the future.
The Supreme Court, through its judgments, contributes to the development of legal precedents. By correcting abuses of court procedures, the court sets a precedent that reinforces the importance of adherence to proper legal processes, ensuring consistency and fairness in the legal system.
Referral for Disciplinary Action:
In extreme cases of judicial misconduct or abuse of legal procedures, the Supreme Court may refer the matter to relevant judicial disciplinary bodies. This serves as a mechanism to maintain the integrity of the legal profession and ensure accountability among legal practitioners.
Awarding Costs or Damages:
In some instances, the Supreme Court may award costs or damages to the aggrieved party as a remedy for the legal abuses suffered. This serves as a form of compensation and deterrent against future procedural violations.
It’s important to note that the specific actions taken by the Supreme Court would depend on the nature and severity of the observed abuses. The court’s intervention aims to rectify injustices, uphold the rule of law, and ensure that legal proceedings are conducted in a fair and just manner. Additionally, the Supreme Court’s decisions serve as authoritative interpretations of the law, guiding lower courts and legal practitioners in future cases.
Professor (Assoc.) Elias Nankap Lamle (PhD: Leuven)
Centre for Conflict Management and Peace Studies
University of Jos, Nigeria