By Dr. Luqman Adedeji
Assumption here is that the audience for this discussion is an enlightened and contemporary one; therefore it is safe to assume it has a fair understanding of what the judiciary is and its role as an arm of a three tier government and its independence.
As the saying goes “The judiciary is the last hope of the Common Man” This statement truly underscores the importance of the Judiciary to the growth of a society and the nation at large. The judiciary remains the bedrock and or pillar upon which a Nation rests.
Quite a number of researches by the World Bank have presented evidence to Show that there are positive economic benefits of strong effective judiciary; the degree of judicial independence is correlated with economic growth; competence of Courts of law affects competitive economic competitiveness; better performing courts ‘ead to more developed credit market; and a stronger Judiciary is assodated with more rapid growth. ‘
A virile, functional and independent Judiciary is a shield that secures and protects those fundamental values and ethos of a Nation and helps to sustain its growth. The judiciary remains in the best position to inculcate the values 0f honesty, hard Work and patriotism among the teeming population of any Nation while preserving peace and national security through its justice delivery’ System. ‘
The fight against corruption and other vices bedeviling a Nation cannot be won without the Judiciary. The Judiciary should enforce Anti-corruption law, with the fear of Allah, by ensuring that the corrupt people face the full wrath of the law. Consequently, this‘ will guarantee service delivery. The Judiciary should advocate for rights promotion in order to enhance accountability.
The Judiciary instills confidence in a Nation and its citizens. It gives them a sense of assurance that all are equal before the law and will be fairly treated at all times. Access to justice is guaranteed especially to the less .privileged and vulnerable persons in a society. ‘
In a nutshell the primary duty’ of the Judiciary is to dispense justice to all manner of people without fear or favour. To achieve this goal, the Judiciary must be truly independent and must be made up of judges and officers of proven integrity who are free to decide and dispense justice honestly and’ impartially in accordance with the law and evidence and most importantly with the fear of the Almighty Allah (Taqwa).
How can they dispense justice honestly and impartially if they do not have the fear of Allah? Hence, Allah says ‘0 you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as just Witnesses; and let not the enmity and hatred ofothers make you avoid justice. Be just, that is nearer to Taqwa; and have Taqwa 0f AlIah. Verily, Allah is Well Acquainted with what you do’ (Al-Maidah 5:8).
Islamic justice system plays a crucial role in promoting human rights through various aspects by providing the basic layout in maintaining equity among humanbeings and prohibits violation of individual rights by imposing punishments for Committing crime.
From Islamic point of view, judicial system should lead to providing guidance, reforms, and development related to various entities, such as; social, political, economic, cultural and civic rights that support a life, free from want or fear (Siddique et al, 2019).
The replica of what is now known as constitution was drafted under the Supervision of Prophet Muhammad (pboh) in 622 CE, which served as the .GRUNDNORM. The Covenant of Madinah concluded between Muhajirun and Ansar on one side and Jews on the other hand, which Was dictated by the Prophet (pboh), guaranteed the rights as well as duties of indiVidual members of the society. The document established the freedom of faith and opinion, sanctity of human life and pmperty, and the forbiddance of crime. The covenant was to supplement the Qur’an and to give the non-Muslims a sense 0f belonging in the society. It certainly constitutes a breakthrough in the economic, political and civil life of the world of that time.
Initially,.Prophet Muhammad (pboh) was the Chief Judge. He later appointed Mu’az nb Jabal and Alli bn Abu Talib, amongst others, to represent him in Yaman, as a result of expansion .of the state. There was no immunity clause, as everybody was equal before the law, during the life time of the Prophet (pboh), as well as his rightly guided -caliphs.’
There was “a case, of a lady from a noble family, who stole jewelry/omament. Becausqof the position of the lady’s family in .the society, a delegation was sent to theBrophet (pboh) to let her off the hook and treat her differently to avoid .the shame and embarrassment the penalty would .cause to the family. The Prophet was visibly angry and his countenance changed. He declared ‘By God who controls my heart, should my beloved daughter, Fatimah steal, the law would take its cause’. The above scenario is referred to in Islaniic history as ‘Imratul Mahzumiyyah’. How fantastic would Nigeria be if our Judges and political leaders could borrow a leaf from this scenario? I therefore strongly advocate for the removal of immunity clause in our constitution as it does us no good. Let the law take its cause on anybody, who ‘runs foul of the law, (no matter how highly placed).
The reign of Umar bn Khattab, the second Caliph witnessed the appointment’of Judges, who were given free hand to operate independently.
The case of a man who charged Umar to court, over a false allegation is relevant here. Despite being the Commander of the faithful (Head of State), he appeared in Court personally, notwithstanding his tight schedule. thn the Judge saw him coming, he Stood up as a mark of respect for his authority. Umar reprimanded the Judge and declared that the complainant has been unjustly treated. That scenario underscores the fact that immunity clause is alien to Islam.
Allah as the Judge of Judges
Allah is the best of judges, who does not oppress or do any injustice to anyone. And from His justice is that He will establish the judgment, and He Will give retribution to the person who was wronged in this life against whoever wronged him. Hence, Allah asked rhetorically in the Qur’an ‘Is not Allah the best of judges’ (95:8). Arising from this, it is expected from any Muslim, particularly those charged with judicial responsibilities, to be sincere when judging between people. As recorded in the Qur’an ‘And that when YOU jUdge between men, you judge with justice’ (4:58. 4:135). The Prophet (pboh) says: ‘Allah is with the judge as long as he does not commit injustice, for when he does, Allah will make him reliant on himself”. A statement as recorded in the Tafsir Ibn Kathir goes, ‘One day of justice equals forty years of worship’. ‘
The Prophet’s Counsel to Judicial Officers.
Ibn Abbas, (may Allah be pleased with him), related from the Prophet (pboh) that ‘Whoever is appointed a judge has been slaughtered without a knife! His followers asked him surprisingly, what do you mean by slaughter 0 Prophet of Allah? He replied: Hell fire’. This hadith underscores the sensitivity and responsibility of being a judge, which could spell doom on the Day of Qiyamah if thejudge fails to do what is right. ‘ ‘
However, the Prophet (pboh) in another Hadith, classified judges into three (3): the first two categories would end up in hell fire, and only the third category would go to paradise. A judge who administersjustice with insincerity and he is aware of it, Would end up in hell fire. A judge who administers justice with ignorance and he denies the right of a person as a result would be sent to hell fire. It’s only a judge Who administers justice with absolute Sincerity that would be rewarded with paradise.
Meanwhile, the Prohet (pboh) said: ‘When.a judge tries to administer justice and he got it right, he would have double reward but when he tries to admmister Justice and he commltS an error that Is not intentional (maybe as a result of evidence available), he WOUId 3““ get One reward’.
No Nation can grow and progress without the contribution of the Judiciary. The Judiciary remains a critical stakeholder in guaranteeing national security, the preservation of peace, progress and growth of a Nation and should be accoided us rightful place in national development. Through advocating for the rule of law, the Judiciary is relied upon to contribute towards inculcation of values of honesty and hard work among the citizenry. This would help in fighting corruption, promoting hard work, ‘patriotism and saving culture with the view to contribute to growth of a nation.
Let me use this medium to commend the state Governor, His Excellency, Babajide Sanwoolu, and his Deputy; His Excellency, Dr. Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat, for installing CCTV cameras in the state.
This effort would not only reduce crime rate, but also provide the much needed evidences to prosecute offenders of different kinds.
1 thank you for your attention. ‘
Being a paper presented by Dr Adedeji, Unit Head of Religious Studies Educatíon, Faculty of Education, University of Lagos, at 2020/2021 New Legal Year Thanksgiving Service, held at Lagos Central Mosque on Monday, 21st September, 2020