Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, the chairman of the Body of Benchers (BoB), urged judges in the nation on Thursday to always resolve matters according to the law and the facts and their judgment should not be affected by those in power.
Olanipekun said this in Akure, the capital of Ondo State, during a lecture titled “Judicial Responsiveness as a Staple Panacea for Social Malady” in honor of the state’s retiring Chief Judge, Justice Williams Akinrotoye. He added that for the judiciary to function without interference, the executive must allow it to.
The legal scholar stated that without judicial independence, there can never be a true separation of powers between the legislature, executive branch, and judiciary.
He said “It is my view under the present dispensation, the judiciary appears more independent at the Federal level than at the State level.
“Whereas the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the President of the Court of Appeal. the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and the Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory who are all under the auspices of the Federal Government, do not patronize the Federal Government or routinely go to Aso Rock Villa, either to meet with the President or his aides, begging for favours for their respective courts and, on the other hand, neither the President nor the Federal Attorney-General terrorizes, harasses or nose lead Judges at the Federal level into giving a decision one way or the other.
“This cannot be said unequivocally for most of the States in Nigeria for, as between some State Governors qua Chief Executives and their Chief Judges, it is a similitude of master and servant relationship, where unconstitutionally and illegally, some Governors believe that they can fire through their legislatures, their Chief Judges.
“It is also becoming the norm in a good number of our States that Judges dare not give judgments against the interests of their Governors or States, irrespective of the position of the facts and law.
“The Governors also see themselves as the lords of the manor, emperors of a sort and demi-gods over their respective Chief Judges, and in the recent past, many Governors have attempted to humiliate and disgrace their Chief Judges out of office, but for the timely intervention and restoration of sanity by the Supreme Court and the National Judicial Council.”
Olanipekun however, frowned over the age discrimination in the retirement age of High Court Judges, and their counterparts in the Appeal Court and Supreme Court, and queried that “but why is a judge of the High Court retiring at age 65 and not 70?”
“In our peculiar clime, abnormal things are often taken as the normal, while whims and caprices of the executives, be they at the Federal or State levels often become the norm.
“These nuances creep into the legal profession and unfortunately, despite our claim to being learned, we do not do any research on how our equilibrium has been distorted or goal post changed midway.”
Speaking, Justice Akinrotoye who was retiring at 65 said the Judiciary can only be totally independent only if it is financially dependent and not independent of the executive.