LAW Chal­lenges be­fore Bulka­chuwa

Daily Trust - - FEATURE - Ade­lanwa Bamg­boye & Mo­hammed Shosanya, La­gos Zainab Bulka­chuwa, Pres­i­dent Court of ap­peal

She as­sumed the role of the Act­ing Pres­i­dent of Court of Ap­peal on Novem­ber 21, 2012. Last Thurs­day, Jus­tice Zainab Bulka­chuwa had a date with his­tory fol­low­ing her in­au­gu­ra­tion as the first fe­male Pres­i­dent of the Court of Ap­peal since its in­cep­tion in 1976.

She be­came the 6th Pres­i­dent of the court af­ter Jus­tices Mam­man Nasir, Mustapha Akanbi, Umaru Ab­dul­lahi, Ayo Salami and Dal­hatu Adamu, who served the Nige­rian ju­di­ciary be­tween 1978 and 2012.

Jus­tice Bulka­chuwa’s ap­point­ment is com­ing at a crit­i­cal time when the Nige­rian ju­di­ciary is un­der­go­ing re­forms.

Dur­ing her pe­riod as the Act­ing Pres­i­dent of the court, there was in­deed a change in the modus operandi of the Court of Ap­peal in line with the dic­tates of the con­sti­tu­tion of Nigeria.

It’s also rea­soned that the change in the oper­a­tion of the Ap­peal Court dur­ing Bulka­chuwa’s act­ing ca­pac­ity may have been ac­cen­tu­ated by the re­forms in the jus­tice sec­tor as well as eth­i­cal re-ori­en­ta­tion of ju­di­cial of­fi­cers which is the driven force of the in­cum­bent Chief Jus­tice of Nigeria (CJN), Jus­tice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar.

Jus­tice Bulka­chuwa, who was born in March 1950, rep­re­sents Gombe State in the Ap­peal Court. She was called to the Bar in 1976 and was el­e­vated to the Ap­peal Court in 1998.

Be­fore then, she had worked as a judge in the High Court of Bauchi State and served as the Chief Judge of Gombe State.

Among the high-pro­file mat­ters she han­dled in­clude the Sokoto State gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion pe­ti­tion of 2007 and the case in­sti­tuted by for­mer Gover­nor Timipre Sylva last year to chal­lenge the nom­i­na­tion of Se­ri­ake Dick­son as the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) can­di­date.

Be­fore her ap­point­ment, she was the Pre­sid­ing Judge of the Abuja Di­vi­sion of the court. She is due to re­tire in 2020.

Ob­servers are of the opin­ion that the fact that the new helms­man of the Ap­peal Court was ap­pointed at the pe­riod of on­go­ing re­form in the jus­tice sec­tor makes it nec­es­sary for her to see her new role as a chal­leng­ing one.

With the elec­tion year around the cor­ner, ob­servers also said the new head of the Ap­peal Court must buckle her shoes with a view to en­sur­ing that pend­ing elec­tion cases are speed­ily dis­posed in line with the re­quire­ments of the con­sti­tu­tion.

To­day, the na­tion’s ju­di­ciary is fac­ing ma­jor chal­lenges which Bulka­chuwa would have to con­front. Some of these chal­lenges in­clude de­layed trial in both crim­i­nal and civil cases. In fact, the na­tion’s ju­di­cial sys­tem is be­set with sev­eral de­fi­cien­cies in its pro­ce­dural set up that makes it very dif­fi­cult to ob­tain jus­tice and quick res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes in courts. Judges are also poorly equipped as our judges still write in long hands.

This ex­plained why Jus­tice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar in her ad­dress at the in­au­gu­ra­tion of Bulka­chuwa, said her ap­point­ment came at a crit­i­cal time in the his­tory of ju­di­ciary in Nigeria. She charged her to re­po­si­tion the Court of Ap­peal in line with the on­go­ing re­forms in the ju­di­ciary.

“As I cel­e­brate with you, let me also re­mind you that your ap­point­ment is com­ing at a crit­i­cal time when the Nige­rian ju­di­ciary is un­der­go­ing re­forms. For this rea­son I charge you to make all ef­forts to re­po­si­tion the court and en­sure that con­fi­dence in the court is re­newed.”

She fur­ther also urged the PCA to carry out her du­ties with all hon­esty, in­tegrity and hon­our, stress­ing that the of­fice of the PCA is very task­ing and ar­du­ous.

She ad­vised Bulka­chuwa to shun all man­ner of po­lit­i­cal pres­sures in the dis­charge of the as­sign­ment.

She said, “In ful­fil­ment of this no­ble role, I there­fore en­join you, as a cus­to­dian of this sa­cred po­si­tion, to shun all forms of po­lit­i­cal pres­sures, and dis­charge your re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in con­so­nance with the oath of of­fice you have just sub­scribed to.

“It is im­per­a­tive for me to let you know that the task ahead is enor­mous and de­mand­ing. The ju­di­ciary no doubt has come a long way and we can­not af­ford to fail at this cru­cial point in our nascent democ­racy.”

Bulka­chuwa as­sured of her com­mit­ment to the CJN’s fight against cor­rup­tion in the ju­di­ciary.

“I stand on this hon­our in the cru­sade against cor­rup­tion be­cause our en­er­gies, faith and de­vo­tion which we bring to this en­deav­our will rekin­dle and build back the trust; and the glow from that fire can truly light not only the ju­di­ciary, but our great Nigeria in gen­eral. My distin­guished col­leagues, let’s not ask how we can tackle cor­rup­tion but our main fo­cus should be on what we can do to ad­dress cor­rup­tion as an in­di­vid­ual or col­lec­tively as a body. By do­ing so, we can rid the ju­di­ciary of cor­rupt prac­tices.

“This is the time to get back on our feet and in do­ing so, we must re­mem­ber that in ev­ery dark hour of our ex­is­tence, a lead­er­ship of frank­ness and vigour that would bul­wark free­dom, jus­tice, fair­ness and hu­man rights is cru­cial to this in­sti­tu­tion.”

She also spoke of plans to en­hance the in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy skills of jus­tices of the Court of Ap­peal, not­ing that an eight-man com­mit­tee had al­ready been set up to work out modal­i­ties for train­ing and re-train­ing of the ju­di­cial of­fi­cers on in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy.

A le­gal prac­ti­tioner, Akin Toye com­mended the con­fir­ma­tion of ap­point­ment of the new Pres­i­dent of the Court of Ap­peal, say­ing it is a good ex­per­i­ment on how the fe­male could turn around the na­tion’s ju­di­ciary for the bet­ter.

He said the PCA should com­ple­ment the ef­forts of the CJN with a view to cleans­ing the bar and the bench of rot which has de­railed the na­tion’s jus­tice.

‘’She should do this with a sense of vigour, com­mit­ment and de­vo­tion to the ul­ti­mate will in the tem­ple of jus­tice. She should wear the fight­ing robe of an Ama­zon and armed with spir­its to bat­tle the odds and give Nige­ri­ans and Nigeria a be­fit­ting ju­di­ciary.”

An­other lawyer, Austin Ed­win ad­vised the new pres­i­dent to move be­yond rhetoric to fight cor­rup­tion and other ills in the na­tion’s ju­di­ciary.

There is no doubt that the na­tion’s ex­pec­ta­tion on the turn­around of the ap­pel­late court by its new pres­i­dent is enor­mous for ob­vi­ous rea­son. This ex­pec­ta­tion can in­deed be met if Bulka­chuwa fights like an Ama­zon and give Nigeria a ju­di­ciary that can stand the test of time.

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