Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, on Thursday expressed concern over conflicting judgments from the various divisions of the Court of Appeal, as well as the Supreme Court.
In his address at the maiden Nigerian Monthly Law Reports Lecture Series at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, the CJN bemoaned the development.
He blamed the development on the creation of different divisions of the Court of Appeal.
Musdapher said, “I must mention that quite a number of judgments from the Court of Appeal and a few from the Supreme Court appear to have created some confusion amongst practitioners and the general public.
“This untenable situation further underscores the importance of this lecture.
“We have witnessed a lot of confusion regarding the proper application of the principle of judicial precedent.
“The creation of several divisions of the Court of Appeal has also led to the unintended problem of conflicting judgments at the appellate court.
“Such judicial contradictions have a tendency to lead not only to confusion in judicial precedent but could cause untold hardship to litigants in their quest for justice.”
The CJN added, “These conflicting judgments not only confuse counsel but the public as well, further leading to uncertainty regarding the public perception of our ability to guarantee unequivocal justice.
“This portrays the judicial process as a game of Russian Roulette where any outcome is possible.”
He advised judges to carefully consider that precedents were unmistakably reflected within the context of the current case, whenever an issue begs for determination.
A Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Lord Carnwath of Notting Hill, who delivered a lecture entitled ‘Judicial precedent: Taming the Common Law’, said greater certainty in law was the most important advantage in the principle of judicial precedents.
He said, “The existence of a precedent may prevent a judge from making a mistake which he might have made if he had been left on his own without any guidance.”
According to Carnwath, the principle can also allow people to generally order their affairs and come to settlements with a certain amount of confidence.