Justice and its administration are very fundamental in a civilized society. Challenging as it may be, society has a duty to monitor and evaluate judicial activities resulting in miscarriage of justice or blatant injustice. Such duty is often initiated or inspired by concerned individual or persons who work hard to change and improve a society.
For uncountable times, we have chosen men of integrity and honour, erudite scholars, jurist and social critiques to suggest ways of reforming our judiciary. Their reports were adjudged commendable. Unfortunately, implementation of their recommendations and its results always fall below expectation.
CJ Onnoghen was confirmed as CJN on 1st March, 2017 by the senate. He will be in office till December 2020, barring any circumstances beyond his control. No one knows how much he could achieve while in that office. At the end of his tenure, he would likely be known as a reluctant reformer
In his dramatic appointment and confirmation by the Senate, the public were told by a Senator of the ruling party that CJ Onnoghen is a courageous man. We were reminded that in the case of Buhari against INEC in 2008, CJ Onnoghen delivered a dissenting judgment wherein he nullified the 2007 election which Buhari lost; he equally handed down the profound decision in Amechi vs INEC which brought Amechi to office. Also, in the case of Saraki against the Federal Republic of Nigeria he delivered the lead judgment in favour of Saraki.
Note that the three actors: Buhari, Saraki and Amechi are leaders of the party in government. No Senator asked about his contribution in correcting lapses in the judiciary. Is his easy confirmation a reward for those favourable rulings? Is he holier than the Justices recently accused and detained by the executive agents?
CJ Onnoghen worked at every level of the judiciary before reaching the peak of his career. For all those years very little has changed. Corruptions remain at all levels of the judiciary. No doubt, he too benefited from the corruption in the judiciary.
Being the most senior CJ in the country gave him the advantage of being the new CJN. With the appointment, come the burden of reform or maintaining the status quo. To prove that he is equal to his responsibilities; he directed that women lawyers should seize using their title (Mrs.) in court.
He also inaugurated a steering committee on judiciary reform. Issues of the independence of the judiciary, and corruption in the Judiciary as well as disobedience of Court orders would as usual be brushed aside when it comes to implementation of the committee report.
The reasons are not far-fetched. Of the three arms of government, the judiciary is an only child and an orphan. It depends on the executives for appointments, promotion and protection. And recently to discipline alleged erring judicial officers. Hence the bench is full of lackey and mistresses of politicians.
The legislator approves finance of the judiciary, make laws for them to interpret and adjudicate; and approves the appointment of CJN. Judicial officers are a special breed of citizen. They are too refined to contemplate raising their voice in public or hire crowd to fight its course. So, the judiciary would remain subservient to the other arms of government.
CJ Onnoghen knows it. Judicial reform is a mirage. Disobedience of Court orders and corruption which he inherited he would pass on to his successor. A time would come when justice would be defended and protected by ethical behaviour. Then the judiciary would reform itself. Until then, we wish CJ Onnoghen success in his attempt to reform the judiciary.
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Aug 3 (2 days ago)
Beware of Unenforceable Terms in Employment Contract
The basis of modern employment is the contract of employment. Parties are bound by the terms embodied in the contract which they freely enter. Thus, in an action for wrongful dismissal, contract of employment is the foundation for the action.
No doubt, at a time of economic recession and desperation for job and greener pasture, job seekers are at the mercy of unscrupulous employers. As was observed by Lord Nothington, ‘Necessitous men are not, truly speaking, free men but to answer to present exigency will submit to any terms that the crafty may impose on them’.
Mrs Victoria Omotayo Akinsanya compelled by economic duress, signed an employment contract which bound her to pay N5m (Five million naira) compensation to her employer if she resign or be dismissed within three years of her employment. Mrs Akinsanya with a salary of N540,000. (Five hundred and forty thousand naira) pa was dismissed within three years. Her employer, Iscare Nigeria Limited, Lagos demanded N5m (Five million naira) compensation as per her contract of employment, and sued her at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) Lagos when she refused to pay.
Justice Obaseki-Osaghae in her well-considered ruling on 19th May 2017 found the term of employment morally despicable, unconscionable, against public policy and International Organisation (ILO) Decent Work Agenda. ‘Where would the defendant get the N5m compensation from,’ she queried.
By virtue of NICN equitable jurisdiction, the rule of law in this matter follows equity, said her Lordship. She dismissed the claimant’s prayers with cost.