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Kano Chief Judge under scrutiny as lawyers, CSO lay complaints over access to justice

Kano Chief Judge under scrutiny as lawyers, CSO lay complaints over access to justice

The Chief Judge (CJ) of Kano State, Justice Nura Sagir, is presently under intense pressure, as lawyers in the state lament that he has made access to justice more cumbersome.

The lawyers said the Chief Judge had unilaterally, without any consultation with their umbrella body, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), inflated filing fees in the state courts, to the extent that Kano State stands out as the costliest when it comes to access to justice in northern Nigeria.

After receiving persistent complaints from its members, the Kano branch of the NBA tried to diplomatically engage the CJ in a manner they thought may make him see reason to reverse what they termed “exorbitant fees”, but the effort failed. The CJ made promises to address their concerns but refused to do so.

The NBA later set up a certain comittee to look into the matter and the committee submitted a report that accused the state judiciary turning “into a revenue generating outfit”. It lamented that access to justice was being commercialised in the state.

As of the time of filing this report, the only thing that the CJ has done was to reduce the filing fee for fundamental human rights enforcement to N1000, an issue lawyers still disagree with, saying fundamental human rights do not even fall within the capacity o the CJ to regulate. They demand an unreserved return to what the law provides.

As it is, NigerianSketch has been reliably informed that lawyers in the state are preparing to challenge the CJ in court

As the issue of filing fees continues to fester, a certain civil society organisation, Centre for Awareness on Justice and Accountability (CAJA), petitioned the National Judicial Council, over the CJ’s inaction on petitions of misconducts against a certain Magistrate, Aminu Muhammad Gabari. CAJA complained about what it called improper administration of the state’s Judicial Service Commission.

In a three-page petition addressed to NJ’s chairman who is the Chief Justice of Nigeria, dated March 15th 2022, CAJA laid series of damning accusations against the CJ, saying he does not take action on complaints of “corruption, discriminatory/preferential treatments of litigants and biases in the direction of cases to the Magistrate Courts.”

The petition said:

“CAJA has observed after thorough investigation that in spite of having over 80 Magistrates, successive Chief Registrars of the Kano State High Court have been in the predictable habit of directing all politically exposed cases involving the Kano State Governor, His Excellency Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje or any member of the ruling party, against any perceived political opponent, to one Senior Magistrate in person of Aminu Muhammad Gabari of Magistrate court No. 58, Nomansland, Kano.”

“The said Magistrate, who our findings reveal is notorious among lawyers and litigants alike is evidently favoured by State’s Chief Judge who in spite of many petitions against the Magistrate and indeed many other erring magistrates in the State has failed and refused to take any administrative action; hence this petition is against the Chief Judge in his capacity as Chairman Judicial Service Commission, Kano State.”

The petition also said, “’While it is predictable to all and sundry that all cases (mostly defamation of character-an ordinarily bailable offence considered a civil wrong in many jurisdiction of the world) against any perceived opponent of the Kano State government goes to the Senior Magistrate in question, the said Magistrate has never failed the State Governor and general public’s expectation by consistently imposing stringent and sometimes impossible bail conditions against anyone arraigned before him in this respect.

“My lord, it is also our keen observation that similar cases involving nonentities never get the type of treatment given to cases involving Kano State governor, members of the first family or other eminent members of the government or ruling party all of whom for obvious reasons prefer Aminu Gabari’s court over 80 other available options.

“The almost predictable pattern of the Magistrate is always to send the defendants to correctional centers on arraignment, after taking a simple bail application which would almost always be adjourned for ruling while ordering for the remand of the defendants. On the day of ruling for bail, the magistrate will normally impose stringent bail conditions apparently incompatible with the nature of the offence and in some cases, the learned magistrate will refuse to sit in the court for one excuse or another thereby prolonging the defendants’ incarceration.

“To cite a few instances, Engineer Ma`az Magaji Dan Sarauniya, Abdulmajid Almustapha (Danbilki Kwamanda), Salisu Yahaya Hotoro, Rufaida Ahmad, Damina Ali Gwarzo and Dalha Yusuf, all of whom are political opponents of the Kano State governor, have at various times suffered the above fate from the same magistrate. We will be ready in due course to furnish further particulars of even more cases and persons who suffer the same “justice” which my lord before now decreed must not only be done, but evidently be seen to be done by all and sundry.

“While we recognize the constitutional right of the governor to seek redress where he feels his character has been defamed, it is a cause for concern, under a rule of law regime, to devise special procedure in the determination of cases involving key government officials as our constitution requires fair and equitable treatment of all Nigerians.

“It is worthy of mention also that the lack of confidence in the administration of the Chief Judge of Kano State against many corrupt and erring magistrates has reached its height in Kano state, in that some complainants have resorted to file court cases against the persons of sitting magistrates before Kano State High court for a far-fetched judicial instead of administrative remedy. To cite an example here also, there is currently a civil case pending before Hon. Justice Ubale of the Kano State High Court against the same Aminu Gabari bordering on receipt of bribes via his bank account.

While we remain utterly disturbed by the trend of administration of justice in Kano state, My lord, we are confident, Sir, that your good office will swiftly and expansively investigate this and even many other cases in order that Kano and indeed all other suitors for justice get the best justice they deserve.”


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Faruk Khalil
Faruk Khalilhttps://nigeriansketch.com/
Khalil Faruk (Deputy Editor-in-Chief), has a Bachelors and Master's degree in Political Science and has worked as a reporter, features editor and Deputy Editor-in-Chief respectively in a leading Nigerian daily. He has undergone trainings in journalism, photo journalism and online journalism within and outside Nigeria.

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