A legal luminary, Chief Mike Ahamba SAN has recommended a thorough investigation of circumstances leading to the two year adjournment of an appeal in the 16-year old Gwandu Emirate headship tussle by the Supreme Court of Nigeria to November 23, 2023.
The apex court had on November 29, 2021, ordered a two year adjournment, further shifting to November 2023, hearing in three appeals challenging the five-year old order of the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division, which reinstated HRH Alhaji Mustapha Haruna Jokolo, as the 19th Emir of Gwandu.
Commenting on the marathon adjournment, Chief Mike Ahamba SAN, urged the Bar to convene a discussion on the issue and to investigate the real causes of such prolonged adjournments and other delays in dispensation of justice, particularly at the Supreme Court, with a view to upholding the interest of justice.
Justices on the panel that ordered the 2 years adjournment were Olukayode Ariwoola (presiding), Amina Augie, John Inyang Okoro, Abdu Aboki and Emmanuel Agim.
“Our courts are congested, the Supreme Court too is congested with appeals. Nobody can explain, they say it’s workload, but one has to investigate the causes of long adjournments”.
“We must find out why it is so now. I hope the Bar will one day call for a discussion on the issue,” Chief Ahamba remarked.
Another legal practitioner, Barrister Innocent Daagba called for the creation of regional Supreme Courts in the country to decongest backlog of appeals at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Barrister Daagba blamed the country’s procedural law and court system for the delay in justice dispensation.
Daagba posited that unbundling the Supreme Court by creating Regional Divisions, will facilitate cases like land disputes and chieftaincy matters emanating from regions to terminate at the regional Supreme Courts, thereby reducing appeals and workload at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“Some of us have been clamouring for establishment of regional Courts of Appeal and regional Supreme Courts so that certain matters will terminate there”.
“I feel for the Supreme Court, I believe it is the busiest in the world. By our constitution, every conceivable appeal goes to the Supreme Court, and this causes long adjournments, which in turn delays justice delivery.”
“To ensure quick dispensation of justice, we must create regional Supreme Courts and give them power to terminate certain proceedings there.”
Daagba noted that long adjournment of cases by the Supreme Court may have been due to heavy workload, but he insisted that “Nigeria’s law is too procedurally inclined” at the expense of substance, allowing
every little interlocutory application to frequently find it’s way on appeal at the Supreme Court.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ishaka Dikko admitted that justice delivery in the country is characterized by incessant delays due to the psyche of Nigerians, structure of the Constitution as well as the way and manner lawyers practice law in Nigeria.
“Quick dispensation of justice to my mind will remain a mirage in Nigeria until our constitutional structure is changed, and the psyche of Nigerians changed, and lawyers too, change the way and manner they practice law in Nigeria”.
Though, Dikko noted that the Supreme Court is overworked due to heavy workload, however, he said “the procedural structure of law that allows appeal to be filed on every trivial issue is not helping matters”.
It would be recalled that the protracted Gwandu Emirate headship tussle commenced in 2005, and in what was described as “unusual” in legal circles, the Supreme Court adjourned it’s hearing on November 29, 2021, in deference to a fresh appeal filed by one of the appellants at the Court of Appeal Sokoto, a lower court.
The November 29, sitting was for the court to hear a motion for substitution of the names of deceased kingmakers in the three appeals marked SC2/2013 (Attorney-General of Kebbi State and others against Alhaji Mustapha Haruna Jokolo); SC314/2016(Alhaji Muhammadu Iliyasu Bashar against Alhaji Mustapha Haruna Jokolo & anor); and SC266/2017(Governor of Kebbi State and others against Alhaji Mustapha Haruna Jokolo.)
The briefs for the appeals were filed in 2019 and consolidated.HRH Jokolo was deposed in 2005 and he promptly went to court to challenge his dethronement.
In 2014, a Kebbi State High Court 6, sitting in Birnin Kebbi, ordered his immediate reinstatement, having been satisfied he was illegally deposed.
In his ruling, the presiding judge, Justice Abbas Ahman said the deposition was contrary to law and that due process was not followed.
Not satisfied with the judgement, Kebbi State Government and Jokolo’s successor, filed an appeal challenging the decision of the Kebbi State High Court.
In a unanimous judgment delivered in April 2016, the three judges of the appellate court led by Justice Tunde Awotoye held that the 2005 deposition of the Emir by the then Governor of the state, now Senator, Adamu Aliero contravened sections 6 and 7 of the Chief Appointment and Deposition Law of the State because the Governor neither made an inquiry into the allegation against the Emir nor consulted the Kebi State’s Council of Chiefs before arriving at his decision.
The Kebbi State Government and Jokolo’s successor approached the Supreme Court for a final decision since 2016.
Specifically, the appeals before the Supreme Court are aimed at reviewing the verdicts of the two lower courts to affirm or deny that Kebbi State Government contravened section 6 and 7 of the Chief Appointment and Deposition Law of the state because the governor neither made an inquiry into the allegation against the Emir nor consulted the state’s council of chiefs before arriving at his decision.
But the matter has witnessed series of adjournments since then culminating in the latest 24 month adjournment.