Desecrating The Temple Of Justice As Justice Danladi Umar Lost His Cool

By Bernard Doro

It was widely circulated. Nigerians took to orthodox and social media to share their their opinions. Most of the comments though everything but objective. The public court have again pronounced their judgement - Here the principle 'innocent till proven guilty' received another bashing. It defeats logic that many of our country men are quick to condemn an unruly lawyer in Rapheal Ajibola Oluyede and then find justifications for a badly behaved judge Danladi Umar. We hail and encourage abuse of process as long as one of ours is not directly involved - very unfortunate. undefined

That Thursday, April 21st during one of those celebrated trials of the current senate president, Bukola Saraki, judge Danladi Umar, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) chairman lost his cool. A defence lawyer raised a motion asking the trial judge/chairman to excuse himself from this case because of possible conflict of interest and perceived lack of impartiality. The defence lawyer adduced reasons for his claims - suggesting that the Judge has a cloudy relationship with the EFCC, an institution which is an interested party in the case.

As at this time, the judge himself was a subject of investigation by the EFCC, the same institution working with Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) in the Bukola Saraki trial. Rather than remain calm and professional, Danladi Umar betrayed himself by engaging in a shouting match with the defense lawyer and erroneously applying his power of arrest. No judge should pronounce judgement in anger - when a judge get to the point that they cannot keep their angst in check, then they lack moral authority to sit in the judgement throne.

The action of this judge desecrates the temple of justice and smacked of likely deep-rooted bias against the defendant. It challenges the independence of both the tribunal and this particular judge to administer justice from a highly exalted temple of justice - Judges enjoy power and authority because they're not 'mere mortals', to borrow from Judicial parlance. It portends danger to our justice system when judges become so indifferent as to securing the confidence of all parties in a case - both prosecution and defence must be sure of access to fair hearing and justice from their courts.

It is fundamental to have an abiding faith in the legal aphorism that 'Justice should not only be done; it must also be seen to be done'. It is a settled principle in law that 'Let not a judgement stand, unless it be plain to see that judgement was properly done'. As such, appearance of bias is what Justices must navigate away from at all times. We do not have to like Saraki to defend due process. Today it's Bukola Saraki, who could it be next?

The disturbing trend in our country since the inception of this administration is the deployment of goodwill, the media and public trials against perceived opponents. The parliament and the judiciary appear weak in confronting/checking an almighty executive of the Buhari administration - the risk is that human rights and rule of law is fast crumbling. Respected Nigerian human rights activists are fast loosing their voices against this regime for fear of being labelled corrupt - this does not augur well for the development of liberal democratic tendencies. Sound democratic practice doesn't come cheap, it involves sacrifices and tenacity.

While it's an established fact that corruption is the bane of progress and the development of our dear country, we shouldn't sacrifice the rule of law on the alter of anti corruption. A faulty process cannot be used to correct a wrong. If we encourage Danladi Umar to flout due process because we don't like Saraki, Danladi may repeat same when someone you like is on trial in his court.

I'm fully supportive of the effort of the Buhari administration to put anti - corruption in the front burner - the fight against corruption must be total rather than cherry picking. There is need for Fair Play and allowing the course of natural justice. Regrettably many Nigerians think no one could take positions on national issues based on convictions anymore. This is a low point in our patriotic zeal and most be discouraged.

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