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NJC more than ready to discharge its constitutional functions

By Danladi Halilu

The National Judicial Council, the apex body for the nation’s Judiciary, is one of the Federal Executive Bodies created under Section 153 of the 1999 constitution.

It came into existence as a child of circumstance sequel to the unfortunate experience the nation had after the 1983 general elections during which there was a spate of judgments delivered by Courts from different states of the Federation on the same matter. Some of the decisions given were outrageous, as their enforcement would have had the unsalutary implication of destabilizing the body polity and the nation, because of the Constitutional crisis inherent in them.

The conclusion was that the executive at the State and Federal levels, dictated and influenced the judgments, because they were vested with the constitutional power to appoint, discipline Judicial Officers and fund the judiciary. To insulate the judiciary from control of the executive, and also to guarantee its independence and financial autonomy, the National Judicial Council was created and given more powers and functions than the erstwhile Advisory Judicial Committee (AJC) it replaced.

The inaugural meeting of the Council was held in April 2000. Realising the scope of its constitutional powers, the following goals were set for the National Judicial Council: A. An entrenched and preserved independent Judiciary. B. A judiciary that is committed to the rule of law. C.  A judiciary that is financially autonomous. D. A pro-active and vibrant Judiciary that has Judicial Officers and Staff with proven integrity and impeccable character.  E.  A dynamic judiciary manned by officers with various backgrounds, discipline, experience and competence.

F. A judiciary that is information technology driven and equipped with the latest stenographic recording machines.  In order to achieve the set goals a structure for the Council was established; namely: -Office of the Secretary and the Departments of; Administration; Planning, Research and Statistics; Finance and Accounts;
Internal Audit; and Public Relations Unit. In the course of performing its Constitutional role over the years, the Council has been faced with enormous challenges. Consequently, Council was constrained to create additional Departments and Units.

To address some of the challenges, the National Judicial Council submitted to the National Assembly, proposed amendments to some of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution. These proposals boarder on the challenges of the Council and general administration of justice in the Judiciary.

The New Office Complex
Since the present Management of the Council assumed duties in July 2002, its staff have been discharging their functions from temporary offices situate in the Supreme Court Complex and in the Federal Judicial Service Commission building. In the same vein, Committees of the Council often times have to move in between different Courtrooms in the Supreme Court and the Conference Hall of the Federal Judicial Service Commission in search of Meeting rooms.

As the saying goes, “everything that has a beginning has an end”. Today Wednesday, the 16th day of December, 2009, I am delighted to inform distinguished guests that the Staff and Management of the National Judicial
Council are happy over completion of the project

The building has four floors covering a total area of 12,000m2 with the following facilities:  (i)    Ultra-modern Meeting Room with a sitting capacity for over 50 persons; (ii) 6 Committee Rooms; (iii)   A well equipped Secretariat for Council; (iv)   A befitting office and Conference room for the Chairman of the Council; (v) Offices for the Secretary and various departments of the Council; (vi) Central air-conditioning with chilled water system; (vii) 3 Heavy Duty Standby Generators; (viii) Dedicated Transformer and power distribution system; (ix)  Close Circuit Security System; (x) Networked Computer Environment; (xi)   Library; and (xii) Provisions of Ramps and Squatter Water Closet (W.C) Systems for disabled persons.

This edifice will no doubt enhance the performance of the Staff and Members of the National Judicial Council in the discharge of their constitutional functions. This welcome address will be incomplete if I do not pay respect and tribute to the past and present Chairmen of the Council.

Thus, it is my singular honour and privilege to acknowledge the invaluable contributions of Their Lordships,  Justice M Uwais, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, who piloted the affairs of the Council since its creation in 1999 up to June 12, 2006 when he retired from office. Indeed,  Justice Uwais conceptualized creation of the National Judicial Council. Justice Alfar Belgore, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, whom on assumption of office, granted the request by Council Members for an Office Complex be built, so as to ameliorate the problems of office accommodation being encountered by particularly the Staff and Management.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council, Justice Idris Kutigi, did not only approve that the office complex be constructed, but also authorised it be built within the Supreme Court Complex premises. Indeed, he ensured that this noble project is completed during his tenure. I wish to convey our immense and sincere gratitude to your lordships.

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