Courts should consider public opinion in judgements – Prof. Falola

Renowned scholar, Prof. Toyin Falola has stated that public opinion should not be discarded in the administration of justice in Nigeria.

Prof. Falola was reacting to the judgement of thr Court of Appeal and Supreme Court which affirmed the election of President Bola Tinubu.

According to him, according too Abraham Lincoln, democracy is for the people and this is what the administration of justice should uphold.

He said, “The pure meaning of democracy, as made popular by Abraham Lincoln, suggests that it is for the masses, and as such, the opinion of the masses are very well essential for the decision-making process, whether it be legal. The consent of the people vetoes the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, although jurisprudence may argue otherwise, then public opinion must be infused.”

According to him election cases should not be solely decided based on technicalities.

“After the just concluded judgement of the Court of Appeal regarding the Presidential Tribunal, I spoke wittingly about the issues of technicality that spiraled the case of the appellants. The words of the presiding judge suggested that the law is not swayed by public opinion and that the law would stand as the law irrespective of the opinion of the public.

“The issue here is the masses greatly expressed concerns about the validity of the elections given the several perplexities they encountered en route to voting; these expressions were even before the questions of legality were brought up. Why, then, do we decide on technicality in the administration of justice?

“The administration of justice should reflect the democracy that is in practice; let’s not just have a democracy that is an idea or a theory; let the practice be widespread and permeate into the justice system. The administration of justice is to foster the administration of the public; why then should technicality take pre-eminence and public opinion be jettisoned? I am not saying that the technicalities therein should be avoided or relegated, but then the court of public opinion should be given reference; only then can we achieve true democracy in practice. This is where historians with a wealth of experience, having gathered intelligence from the perusal of the antecedents of the country, play a vital role in the engendering of public opinion for the administration of justice.”

He also spoke on the recent valedictory lecture of the second most senior Justice on the Supreme Court bench Justice Dattijo Muhammad, where he accused the judiciary of being corrupt and derelict in delivering duties.

Prof. Falola said the Supreme Court should take the matter seriously and investigate it.

“When a high-ranking official within the judiciary accuses the system of corruption and dereliction of duties, it is a serious matter that requires attention. Such accusations can undermine public trust and confidence in the judiciary, which is essential for the proper functioning of any legal system. If these allegations are true, the judiciary must take immediate action to address the issues raised. This may involve conducting thorough investigations, implementing stricter accountability measures, and ensuring transparency in the judicial process.

“It is also important for the judiciary to engage in dialogue with the public to regain their trust and demonstrate their commitment to justice. This is where the engagement of public opinion in the administration of justice plays a vital role; giving the very persons who have lost confidence a chance at the table would, to a great extent, foster the resuscitation of the lost confidence. It was once said that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man; what then should we say now that the judiciary is bereft of corruption and easily swayed, claiming technicalities as the basis for apparent erroneous judgement?

“It is worth noting that accusations of corruption and inefficiency within the judiciary are not unique to any particular country or legal system. Many countries face similar challenges, and it is an ongoing struggle to maintain a fair and impartial judiciary. Continuous efforts are necessary to address these issues and uphold the principles of justice and the rule of law.

“Ultimately, it is up to the relevant authorities and stakeholders to take appropriate action in response to the concerns raised by Danjitto Muhammad and work towards a judiciary that is free from corruption and delivers its duties effectively,” he added.

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