The legality of chamber’s judgment: whether an indispensable ground of appeal in Nigeria – Akilu sa’adu
𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙡𝙚𝙜𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙧’𝙨 𝙟𝙪𝙙𝙜𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩: 𝙬𝙝𝙚𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙖𝙣 𝙞𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙣𝙨𝙖𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙜𝙧𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙙 𝙤𝙛 𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙚𝙖𝙡 𝙞𝙣 𝙉𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙖
Nigeria, like any other sovereign states under the shimmering eyes of sun, is govern by Laws– international or National. And it is condition precedent that for every successful dispensation of justice, the justices or judges must, as a matter of truthfulness, religiously uphold the heavy canon of law and stand firmly on the itchy lane of justice.
on this background, this writting will endeavor to expose the legality or otherwise of the judgement delivered in judge’s chamber.
𝙏he question of whether or not the judgement meted by a judge while in his chamber is constitutional girdles arround the strong waist of 𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 36 (3) an and (4) of the 1999 constitution (amended) . the section says : ” 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙘𝙚𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙖 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙩 𝙤𝙧 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙘𝙚𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙗𝙪𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙧𝙚𝙡𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙢𝙖𝙩𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙙 𝙞𝙣 𝙨𝙪𝙗𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 (1) 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙨𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙗𝙚 𝙝𝙚𝙡𝙙 𝙞𝙣 𝙋𝙐𝘽𝙇𝙄𝘾 (𝙚𝙢𝙥𝙝𝙖𝙨𝙞𝙨 𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙚).
similarly, subsection (4) of the referred section says: ” 𝙬𝙝𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙤𝙣 𝙞𝙨 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙜𝙚𝙙 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙖 𝙘𝙧𝙞𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙤𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙚, 𝙝𝙚 𝙨𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙡, 𝙪𝙣𝙡𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙜𝙚 𝙞𝙨 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙙𝙧𝙖𝙬𝙣 𝙗𝙚 𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙩𝙡𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙖 𝙛𝙖𝙞𝙧 𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙞𝙣 𝙋𝙐𝘽𝙇𝙄𝘾 ( emphasis mine).
Public as defined by Black Law dictionary as “pertaining to a state, nation or general public.. . open to all; notorious… “
It is a setttled law that where any judement is entered contrary to the provision of constitution, which is the mother law of the land, can not be held in our court and it is liable to be struck out. (𝙨𝙚𝙚 𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 1(3) 𝙤𝙛 1999 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙩𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣).
The above alluded constitutional proviso stirred a cloud of dust on the atmosphere of judicial sphere particularly to a Law students who are trying to acclimatise with the complex or harculean nature of judicial proceedings.
Now, the question is whether “𝙥𝙪𝙗𝙡𝙞𝙘” as comtemplated in the 1999 constitution denotes “chamber” or wether judge’s chamber can be considered as “public”?
This question as been elaborated and fastidiously answered in the case of 𝙊𝙫𝙞𝙖𝙨𝙪 𝙫. 𝙊𝙫𝙞𝙖𝙨𝙪 , per Niki Tobi JSC where he said:
“𝘼 𝙟𝙪𝙙𝙜𝙚’𝙨 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙧 𝙞𝙨 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙖 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙩 𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙩𝙤 𝙬𝙝𝙞𝙘𝙝 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙥𝙪𝙗𝙡𝙞𝙘 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙣𝙤𝙧𝙢𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙧𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙖𝙘𝙘𝙚𝙨𝙨”
similarly, it was a equally and meritoriously held in the case of 𝙀𝙙𝙞𝙗𝙤 𝙫 𝙎𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩: ” 𝘼 𝙟𝙪𝙙𝙜𝙚’𝙨 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙘𝙖𝙣𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙣𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝙗𝙚 𝙖 𝙥𝙪𝙗𝙡𝙞𝙘 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙚 𝙤𝙧 𝙖𝙣 ” 𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙣” 𝙪𝙣𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙚”
The judge’s chambers is his “inner sanctum” . it is certainly not a place ordinarily accessible to the public without his permission. (see the case of 𝘽𝙖𝙗𝙖 𝙫. 𝙉. 𝘾. 𝘼. 𝘾 𝙕𝙖𝙧𝙞𝙖 ). a hearing in public entails a situation where the public is not barred. (see the case of 𝙀𝙙𝙞𝙗𝙤 𝙫 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 (infra)
This is to say that a hearing is said to be conducted in “public” and in consonance with the extant section of constitution, if it is conducted and delivered in the provided court-Hall where it is openly accessible, untrammelled, to every persons.
This is captured in the case of 𝙆𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙗𝙞𝙣𝙣𝙪 &𝙤𝙧𝙨 𝙫 𝘼𝙡𝙞𝙢𝙞 (2005) that :
” 𝘼 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙛𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧 𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 36(3) 𝙤𝙛 1999 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙩𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙩𝙤 𝙗𝙚 𝙘𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙙 “𝙥𝙪𝙗𝙡𝙞𝙘”….. 𝙞𝙛 𝙞𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩𝙡𝙮 𝙖𝙘𝙘𝙚𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙢𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙤𝙧 ” 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙟𝙪𝙙𝙜𝙚”
it is beatiful to judiciously note that , where a judge repudiated to follow the provision of section 36(3) and subsequently enter judgement, the defect ,being fundamental, goes to the root of proceedings and renders the entire judgement ineffectual ,null and void . see the case of 𝙊𝙫𝙞𝙖𝙨𝙪 𝙫 𝙊𝙫𝙪𝙞𝙖𝙨𝙪 (supra) .
In any proceeding whether civil claim or criminal matters, where judgement is entered at the judge’s chamber is null and void thus, if appeal would be overturned see the case of 𝙎𝙞𝙢𝙤𝙣 𝙀𝙙𝙞𝙗𝙤 𝙫 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 (supra). in this instant case the proceedings and plea of rhe appellants were taken in the judge’s chambers. the supreme court held that: 𝙞𝙩 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙤𝙣𝙡𝙮 𝙞𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙜𝙪𝙡𝙖𝙧𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙮 : 𝙞𝙩 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙖 𝙛𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙖𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙙𝙚𝙛𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙧𝙚𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙥𝙧𝙘𝙚𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙨 𝙣𝙪𝙡𝙡 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙫𝙤𝙞𝙙 “.
Lastlt, it has been thouroughly depicted that, whenever a judge delivered judgement in his well-cushioned chamber, it will be a ground for an appeal .
Based on the above copiously alluded constitutional proviso and judicial authority , the judges’ chambers are not court rooms hence, can not be contemplated as “public” since people has little or trammeled access to the chambers.
Thus, any judgement entered by a judge in his chambers is tantamount to be struck out on appeal and will form a bricks for erecting grounds of Appeal.
Akilu Sa’adu is 200 level Law student from the Faculty of Law Ahmadu Bello University Zaria who believe in the religious observance of the constitution. He is a legal researcher, writer and a poet.