NBA VS Former Minister Tallen: 4 Reported Cases where the Appeal Courts used “Kangaroo” to refer to the Judgement of Lower Courts

On 16 October 2022, Mrs Pauline Tallen, the then Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, attended the alumni meeting of the Federal Government Girls College Bida. At the forum, she took a swipe at a “Kangaroo judgement” of the Federal High Court in Yola which “should be rejected by all well-meaning Nigerians”.

 



In the said judgement, the court had nullified the candidature of Aishatu Dahiru aka Benani as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) flagbearer for Adamawa State in the 2023 General election.

Two days after her remark, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, asked Tallen to apologise or face legal action. When Tallen Ignored the NBA request, the Association filed a case in court against her.


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On Monday, the 18th of December 2023, an Abuja High Court declared that the said statement of Dame Pauline Tallen (the defendant) was unconstitutional, careless, reckless, disparaging, a call to disobey the judgment of court and therefore contemptuous of the Federal High Court of Nigeria.

The Court further issued an injunction restraining Dame Pauline Tallen from holding any public office in Nigeria, unless she purges herself of the ignoble conduct by publishing a personally signed apology letter to Nigerians and the judiciary. The injunction restraining the defendant from holding any public office in Nigeria shall become perpetual if she fails to abide by the order directing her to publish an apology letter within 30 days.

The Unprecedented Judgement as expected gathered mixed reaction within lawyers forums as whether the use of “Kangaroo Court or Judgement” in describing the decision of a court in a social gathering is contemptuous of the Court.

Research by BarristerNG.com shows that Appeal courts in Nigeria have used the word “Kangaroo” while describing the decisions of lower court before.

Below are four instances where the word Kangaroo was used by Appeal Courts.

 

1: CHIEF EMMA EMESIM v. HON CALISTA NWACHUKWU & ORS (1999) LPELR-6573(CA)

In this case, the appeal was against the judgment of the Election Petition Tribunal of Anambra State. The appellant, Chief Emesim and the 1st respondent, Hon Nwachukwu, contested the December 5. 1998 local government elections. The result of the election was in dispute.

The appellant was dissatisfied with the decision of the Election Petition Tribunal and appealed to the Court of Appeal. The appeal was filed on January 25. 1999 which was within the time prescribed by the Local Government(Basic Constitutional and Transitional Provisions) Decree No. 36 of 1998. The Decree further provides that appeals arising from decisions of Election Tribunals shall be determined  within thirty days. The notice of appeal was duly served on the 1st respondent on the day the appeal was filed and a certificate of the registrar attested to the service.

The case was fixed for February 22, 1999 for hearing. The appellant filed a motion for leave to file additional grounds of appeal which was also fixed for February 22, 1999. However. it became impossible for the Court of Appeal to hear both the motion and the appeal on the adjourned date because the Justices had to leave for  Abuja on a very important official assignment. The appeal was therefore adjourned at the instance of the court. On February 25, 1999 when the court resumed sitting, it granted the appellant’s unopposed prayer for leave to file additional grounds of appeal. It however, became impracticable to hear and determine the appeal within  thirty days from the date the appeal was filed. If the appeal had been heard on February 22, 1999, it would have been within the thirty days period. The appellant’s counsel, Professor Ben Nwabueze urged the court to hear the appeal despite the  effluxion of time as the appellant had done all that was required of him to ensure that the appeal was heard and determined within time while Counsel for the Respondent, N.N. Anah SAN urged the court to strike out the Appeal for lack of jurisdiction having not decided the Appeal within 30 days.

Justice Niki Tobi, JCA, as he then was, in his lead Judgment accepted the respondent’s argument and held thus:

“In a legal contest between A and B, the so called justice based merely on sentiment or sympathy for A in defiance of the rule of law is injustice to B. Such justice is justice by a rule of thumb; it is kangaroo justice; it is no justice by the Court. In Edun v. Odan Community (1980) 9-11 S.C 103 at 127 the Supreme Court made it clear that “the moment a Court ceases to do justice in accordance with the law and procedure laid down for it, it ceases to be a regular Court and becomes a kangaroo Court.” To hear this appeal in defiance of the clear and unambiguous provision of Paragraph 2(2) of Schedule 5 to the Decree makes this Court cease to be a regular Court and reduces itself to a kangaroo Court. I will be sad, very sad indeed to sit in a kangaroo Court. I repeat, I will not take part in such a Court.”

 

2: WING COMMANDER NC NNADI v. NIGERIAN AIRFORCE (2018) LPELR-50502(CA)

In this appeal against the Judgment of the General Court Martial convened by the Respondent and sitting in Lagos presided over by GP. CAPT ASA BUHARI. The Appellant was charged with the offence of visa racketeering by the General Court martial conveyed by Nigerian Air Force following a petition filed by the petitioner, Mr. Celestine Asinugo and the 21 others alleging to have given money to the Appellant to secure visas for them. The Appellant entered a a no case submission which was dismissed by the Court martial which eventually found him guilty of the alleged offences and dismissed him from service.

Justice Tijani Abubakar JCA while upturning the verdict of the Court Martial held:

The practice adopted by the Court martial is kangaroo and draconian, it is therefore repugnant to natural justice, it offends good conscience. The practice adopted by the Court martial is unjust. An accused person cannot be tried without a complain; so doing constitutes disdain and flagrant disregard to law and human rights.”

 

3: GABRIEL GBENOBA ESQ v. LPDC & NBA (2021) LPELR-53064(SC)

This is an appeal against the Directions of the 1st Respondent (LEGAL PRACTITIONERS DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE- LPDC) delivered on 6th day of May, 2014 Coram: J.B. Daudu SAN (Chairman); Hon. Justice Z.A. Bulkachuwa Ag. PCA (as she was then was); Hon. Justice P.A. Galinje JCA; (as he then was) Hon Justice A.S. Dahiru, C. J. Sokoto; Hon. Justice Kulu Aliju, C.J Zamfara; Yusuf Ali SAN; Emmanuel C. Ukala SAN; R. A. Lawal Rabana SAN; Anthony Ani SAN, Attorney- General Enugu State and Tijjani Inuwa -Dutse Esq., wherein the Appellant was found guilty of infamous conduct as a legal practitioner contrary to Rules 1, 14, 16 & 21(1) (a) of the Legal Practitioners Act, as amended.

The Petitioner, Mrs Olatimbo Ayinde, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Tubbs Marine & Energy Ltd on the 23rd of June 2008 sought the legal services of the Appellant in respect of the purchase of property at No. 38 Raymond Njoku Street, Ikoyi, Lagos which the company sought to purchase. The Appellant advised against the purchase but the petitioner went ahead to purchase the property. Thereafter, the Petitioner paid the Appellant to perfect the documents relating to the property after it was purchased through another legal practitioner.

​On 2nd July 2008, the Appellant brought a quote of N7,500,000.00 for obtaining Governor’s consent, registration of the property and professional fees which the Petitioner agreed to pay. The money was paid by the Petitioner to the Appellant and on the 10th July, 2008, the Appellant acknowledged receipt of the money. In the course of processing the consent, there was a delay beyond the expected time for perfecting the documents. Apart from that, litigation ensued in respect of the property and the petitioner had to join as a party. The petitioner engaged the Appellant in conjunction with her company lawyer to represent her in the suit.

​The parties-petitioner and Appellant fell out at this point over the inability of the Appellant to obtain Governor’s consent and problems encountered in the course of the litigation. The Petitioner asked for return of the money paid to regularize the proper documentation of the property. The Appellant insisted he was still owed money and the Petitioner refused to pay. Not satisfied with the claim of the Appellant, the Petitioner wrote a petition to the 2nd Respondent, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) alleging professional misconduct. The Nigerian Bar Association sent the petition for Appellant’s comments, he responded to the petition. The NBA concluded that a prima facie case had been made against the Appellant. The NBA drafted charges and referred the charges to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee. The Appellant was charged before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee on a three- count complaint by the Nigerian Bar Association (2nd Respondent) for engaging in conduct unbecoming of a legal practitioner contrary to Rules 1, 14, 16, and 21 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (RPC) and was found guilty.

Justice Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, J.S.C while upturning the decision of LPDC and NBA held thus:

“The directions agreed to by several members who were not present during and/or throughout the proceedings which was written by the chairman of the LPDC did not meet with the basic requirement of fair hearing as entrenched in our constitutional jurisprudence. The LPDC is not a star Chamber or Kangaroo Court doing wishy washy justice. There must be certainty in the composition and consistency of its panel. The moral force of its Directions rests on the caliber of the people who took the final Decision to deprive a legal practitioner of his means of livelihood.”

 

4: AUSTIN ENEBELI v. CHIEF OF NAVAL STAFF & 2 ORS. (2000) 9 NWLR (PT. 671) 119

Justice Galadima, JCA (as he then was) while agreeing that the Applicant who was convicted by a Court Martial was entitled to post conviction bail held thus:-

“I must say that in the case at hand all the above factors are present and these constitute very exceptional circumstances why the applicant after his conviction and sentence to 19 years imprisonment should be admitted to bail. These circumstances can be seen clearly from the deposition of the learned counsel for the applicant. The applicant having been entrusted with grave responsibility, set out to lead, as second in command the ECOMOG soldiers and equipment to Liberia. He is not known to have previous criminal record. His detention, trial, conviction and sentence were brazenly carried out in most unsatisfactory manner, akin to a ‘Kangaroo’ proceeding by the General Court Marshal NNS Olokun. He has clearly expressed his dissatisfaction with the proceedings by filing in his six Grounds of Appeal. On the face of the depositions and preliminary argument of the learned counsel for the applicant which have not been countered. I form an opinion that the conviction of the applicant is prima facie wrong in law and there is likelihood of the appeal succeeding. It is clear from the circumstances of his case that it is highly necessary for the applicant prisoner to be free in order to consult with his counsel to further pursue this appeal depositions in paragraphs. 1 – 22 clearly show the frustration, lack of understanding, and non-challant attitude displayed by the 1st and 2nd respondents who were only interested in dumping him in prison. He was not given adequate opportunity and facility to defend himself. Even after him conviction he was not provided with conductive and free conditions to prosecute his appeal. I have considered as a matter of fact that appeals are usually delayed, given the circumstances in this particular case, and the fact that the prisoner has served and will still serve a considerable part of his term before the appeal is finally disposed of if bail is not granted”




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