Justice Rhodes-Vivour Retires, Asks Supreme Court Review Doctrine of Precedent

Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour of the Supreme Court bowed out on Monday with a parting shot to the court to jettison some previous decisions.

Rhodes-Vivour, who retired on clocking 70 year mandatory retirement age, spoke at a valedictory session in his honour.

He urged the court to reconsider its doctrine of Precedent, which means “stand by your decisions and the decisions of your predecessors, however wrong they are and whatever injustices they inflict”.

But he said some of such previous judgements no longer make sense, including some that he made himself.

“There are some Precedents that are clearly out of date, and should no longer be followed.

“I am of the view that Precedents that no longer make sense anymore or are outdated should be laid to rest and never followed”.

In 2006, while serving as a Justice of the Court of Appeal, he held in the case of Dokubo-Asari Vs FRN that where National Security is threatened or there is the real likelihood of it being threatened, human rights or the individual rights, must be suspended until the National Security can be protected or well taken care of.

He however made a U-turn on Monday, stressing that national security must be visibly threatened before anyone is denied his rights.

“No one should be denied his rights on the whims and fancy of anyone in authority”.

Justice Rhodes-Vivour said convicts should only be allowed to serve their prison terms only after their appeals are exhausted.

“The reason being that some convicts serve several years in prison before their appeals are heard and decided.

“Their appeal may be found to be meritorious. They are then released. No compensation paid for the time spent in prison”.

He called for a credible and transparent system in the fight against corruption.

The jurist also faulted the conduct of elections in the country, lamenting they are protracted because the stakes are too high.

“Electoral reforms, national security, the doctrine of precedent, limitation law and inheritance all require reforms and even outright abolishment in some cases”.

Justice Rhodes-Vivour noted that most elections are usually resolved by the courts simply because most politicians are never satisfied with the results announced by the electoral umpire.

He admitted that corruption is deeply rooted in Nigeria like any other country in the world.

However, he canvassed for concerted efforts to be made in order to reduce the anomaly.

” Nigeria is no exception when it comes to corruption and this must be tackled through genuine efforts so as to make life more meaningful for the citizenry.

” What should be done is to reduce it drastically thereby making our dear country an exception by building credible and transparent systems” Justice Rhodes-Vivour said.

On the issue of local government autonomy, Rhodes-Vivour noted that governors act on their “whims and fancies unknown to our laws, clearly illegal”, when they dissolve elected local government councils and replace them with caretaker committees”.

According to him, it is the duty of governors to ensure that the system of local government continues unhindered.

“It amounts to executive recklessness for the governor to remove from office democratically elected chairmen and councillors under whatever guise. It is illegal and wrong”, he said.

The retiring justice who appreciated God’s mercy, testified that he was never absent from work on the account of ill health throughout his reign as a judge.

The chairman Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), Chief Adegboyega Awomolo said Rhodes-Vivour will be remembered as a modest activist on the bench.

He said Rhodes-Vivour should be celebrated for pragmatism and being a pride of the Bar, on the Bench.

“You will be remembered as one of those justices who dismantled the edifice of technicalities, that was for decades before your generation.

” You appreciated industry, diligence and show of highest ethical standard and decorum by Counsel,” Awomolo said.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, (CJN) Justice Tanko Mohammad also described Rhodes-Vivour as a rare gem and unblemished symbol of humility and piety.

The CJN further noted Rhodes-Vivour’s proficiency in the dispensation of justice, presents him as a man of honour and scholarship, whose judgements are not just incisive but analytic and opulent by every standard.

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