Sanusi: Legal luminaries carpet judge over Kano emirship ruling, decry judicial corruption

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Muhammadu Sanusi II, Emir of Kano.

By Mark Longyen

In a recent statement via his official X account, Prof Chidi Odinkalu, a well-known human rights lawyer and former Chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, rubbished the decision of a Federal High Court on the prevailing tussle over the stool of the Emir of Kano.

Periscope International recalls that a Federal High Court sitting in Kano, presided over by Justice Abdullahi Liman, had strangely set aside a law previously used to depose the recently dethroned Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado-Bayero and others.

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Reacting to the controversial ruling, Odinkalu did not hold back his criticism but pointedly accused the judge of overstepping his jurisdiction, and described it as a “rogue ruling.”

“Today in Kano, Abdullahi Liman, a judge of @FederalHigh, has overruled longstanding @SupremeCourtNg precedent, assumed jurisdiction he does not have to grant reliefs the parties did not ask for in exercise of powers that he lacks.

“Anyone who does this is a rogue not a judge,” Odinkalu wrote.

Similarly, Chief Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN expressed his dismay at the judge’s decision, describing it as an embarrassment to the judiciary.

Speaking in an interview with Arise TV, he noted that the existence of conflicting judicial orders creates significant issues.

Falana stressed that a Kano State High Court had issued an order in favor of Sanusi, which should be resolved by the Court of Appeal to mitigate any confusion.

He argued that this procedural step should typically prevent any further pronouncements from the Federal High Court judge as the matter is now under the purview of the appeal court.

The legal luminary noted that it was curious that the judge in question proceeded to make further rulings despite his being aware of the pending appeal. 

”The orders oozing out of Kano are an embarrassment to the Judiciary.

“And once we already have conflicting orders, there is a problem.

“We have an order of the Kano State High Court in favour of Sanusi.

“The practice in the past was to allow the Court of Appeal to clear the confusion as it were. 

“And in this case, an appeal has been filed in the court of appeal over the ruling of the court that it had jurisdiction over the matter.

“And from the information at my disposal, the record has been entered.

“Once that is shown to the Judge, he can no longer make any pronouncement, BUT he still went ahead,” Falana decried.

Falana cautioned against disregarding the superiority of  superior courts, like the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court, stressing that the judgement by Liman was a mockery of the rule of law.

“High Court judges ignoring or overruling Supreme Court decisions undermines the hierarchy of courts and the legal system’s integrity. 

“Federal High Courts assuming jurisdiction over human rights matters related to traditional leadership deposition or reinstatement, despite Supreme Court precedents, is extremely embarrassing.

“Judicial hierarchy and adherence to Supreme Court decisions to maintain the rule of law and prevent chaos in the legal system is very important.

“It’s a mockery of the rule of law if a high court judge decides to ignore or overrule the judgement of the Supreme ourt. So that is the bottom line of the whole confusion.

“The Federal High Court has NO jurisdiction to determine human rights matters arising from the deposition or reinstatement of a traditional matter,” he stressed.

Also speaking on the judgment of Justice Liman, renowned constitutional lawyer, Prof Auwalu Yadudu, described the ruling as “strange and baffling”.

Reacting to the issue in an interview, the erudite Professor said the development was not helpful for the judicial process.

He stressed that it was strange that the judge assumed jurisdiction on the fundamental human rights aspect but refused the same on the validity of the substance of the case, that is, the Kano Emirates Law.

“He has muddled up the case, and it is very unbecoming of a judge, who has now been immediately elevated to the Court of Appeal. The pronouncements are unbecoming.

“How can you say the actions taken in pursuant of a law are set aside, and then say you are not delving into the validity of the said law?” He queried.

Prof. Yadudu further said that the judge had more or less held that he lacked jurisdiction on the issue by transferring the case to another judge, but still went ahead to set aside the governor’s actions!

He said that the ex-parte order should no longer be of any currency because it is being challenged at the Appeal Court, and the judge himself admitted knowledge of this by granting a stay of proceedings and also deciding not to grant an order to nullify the law.

“All these are avoidable. It is not helpful for the judicial process. It is strange and doesn’t speak well of the judge.

“The question of whether the governor’s actions came before and after the exparte order is a question of fact or evidence. It seems from the record that the order came after,” Yadudu noted.

Also expressing his dismay at the ruling, Chief Adeboro Adamson, a renowned Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), criticized the decision of Justice Liman to transfer the case to another judge, citing his elevation to the Court of Appeal as the reason.

Adamson argued in an interview with Arise News television that Justice Liman’s elevation is not yet confirmed and therefore, he is still a judge of the Federal High Court.

“Elevation, until confirmed, is inchoate. If it’s not confirmed by the President, they’re still at the mere stage of ‘we’ve nominated you.’ That’s not elevation per say.”

Adamson also questioned the curious hurry to transfer the matter, saying, “If you know you’ll not take the matter, why are you in a hurry?”

He emphasized that Justice Liman’s appointment to the Court of Appeal has not been signed or approved by the Federal Republic of Nigeria in accordance with the provision of the constitution.

“If you look at the confusion of the matter. My Lord transfered the matter to another judge, saying he was elevated to the Court of Appeal.

“Elevation until confirmed is inchoate. If it’s not confirmed by the President, they’re at the mere stage of we’ve nominated you. That’s not elevation per say. If you look at it critically.

“His appointment has not been signed or approved by the Federal Republic of Nigeria in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.

“If you know you’ll not take the matter, why are you in a hurry?” He asked rhetorically.

It would be recalled that a kingmaker in the former Kano emirate, Aminu Danagundi, the Sarkin Dawaki Babba, had challenged the propriety of the repealed Kano Council Law, which Gov Abba Yusuf used to depose the 15th Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, and reversed the status of the emirs of Bichi, Rano, Gaya, and Karaye emirates to that of district heads, following the collapsing of their emirates into Kano Emirate.

Based on the law, the governor had also re-appointed the 14th Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, as the 16th Emir of Kano.

Danagundi had asked the court, through his counsel, Chikaosolu Ojukwu (SAN), to declare the law null and void.

While the court declared the actions taken by the governor as “null and void”, it stated, however, that its ruling did not affect the validity of the Kano Emirates Council (Repeal) Bill 2024, which was passed by the Kano State House of Assembly.

The judge had earlier granted a restraining order against the inauguration of Sanusi by the governor the day Sanusi was sworn in.

Liman was said to be out of the country on that day and yet he allegedly signed the ruling the same day that the matter was purportedly filed and assigned to him.

The controversial ruling has gained widespread attention, given its implications for judicial authority and the precedent it might set.

The dethronement law, previously upheld, had been used to remove several traditional rulers, including Emir Bayero. 

The court’s decision to set aside this law has been seen by some as a challenge to established legal norms.

Many argue that Justice Liman’s ruling undermines the authority of the Supreme Court and disrupts the legal framework governing traditional rulership in Nigeria.

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