THE SUPREME COURT AND ORJI UZO KALU’S CONVICTION
By Evans Ufeli Esq
The Supreme court acted according to law not minding whoever is involved. You see, the issue of jurisdiction is sacred in law and once a court acts without it any judgment therefrom no matter how brilliantly delivered must fail.
See the case of ISAAC OBIUWEBI V. CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA (2011) 7 NWLR PT 465 (SC)
“Jurisdiction is the threshold matter. It is very fundamental as it goes to the competence of the court to hear and determine a suit. It is mandatory that the court takes the issue of jurisdiction very seriously and decline when so convinced that hearing a suit and delivering judgment on same will amount to a nullity.”
See BRONIK MOTORS LTD & ANOR V. WEMA BANK LTD 1990 2NWLR PT 31 P172, MADUKOLU V. NKEMDILIM 1962 1 ANLR PT 4 P. 587.
Jurisdiction can be raised at any stage of the proceedings for the first time. See USMAN DANFODIO UNIVERSITY V. KRANS THOMPSON ORGANISATION LTD 2001 15NWLR PT 736 P. 305.
“Jurisdiction can be raised by any of the parties or by the court, and once raised, the judge will do well to examine it and render a considerable ruling on it. In the task of determining if the court has jurisdiction to hear and determine the case, the following principles must be considered diligently by the judge;
a. Whether the subject matter of the case is within the court’s jurisdiction.
b. Whether there is any feature in the case which prevents the court from exercising its jurisdiction.
c. Whether the case comes before the court initiated by due process of law and upon the fulfillment of any condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction.”
See Madukolu v. Nkemdilim 1962 2SCNLR P.342: Ajao v. Popoola 1986 5 NWLR P.145.
The above issues are sacrosanct and same, cannot be compromised in law. I am writing this specifically for non lawyers to understand. Justice Mohammed Idris was elevated to the court of appeal sometime ago and while there the president of the court of appeal issued a fiat to him pursuant to section 369 (7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 to continue the trial of former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu.
Section 396 (7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act says,
“Notwithstanding the provision of ANY other law to the contrary, a Judge of the High Court who has been elevated to the court of appeal shall have dispensation to continue to sit as a High Court Judge only for the purpose of concluding any part-heard criminal matter pending before him at the time of his elevation and shall conclude the same within a reasonable time. Provided that this subsection shall not prevent him from assuming duty as a Justice of the court of appeal.”
The above section of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act is unconstitutional and this is the fulcrum of the Supreme court’s decisions in this case. An act of Parliament cannot be using the expression, “notwithstanding the provision of any other law to the contrary,” when the constitution still remains the highest law in the land and has clear provisions of supremacy, subjecting every contrary law to nullity to the extent of their inconsistencies.
Justice Mohammed Idris acted and convicted former governor Orji Uzor Kalu when his elevation to the court of appeal had already robbed him of jurisdiction to continue sitting as a High Court Judge. In the eyes of the law, the moment he was elevated to the court of appeal in the hierarchy of courts, his jurisdiction over that matter was extinguished and the supreme court has entrenched this position further to say that section 369 (7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act upon which the president of the court of appeal issued a fiat to justice Mohammed to continue the matter is unconstitutional. Infacts , I think section 396 (7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act is an arrogant section of an Act of Parliament and the framers of that section ought to have known that that section is in contravention to the constitution and that an Act of Parliament is subject to a supreme law – the 1999 constitution as amended.