By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The National Judicial Council, NJC, Monday, inaugurated a 10-man Judicial Ethics Committee with a mandate to review the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers in the country.
The Committee headed by a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Legbo Kutugi, also has an erstwhile Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, as a member.
Other members of the Committee include former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi, President of the National Industrial Court, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Ishaq Bello, President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, two retired Justices of the Supreme Court, as well as a former President of the NBA, Chief Okey Wali, SAN.
Commissioning the Committee at the National Judicial Institute, NJI, on Monday, the CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, tasked it “to do all such things necessary to ensure a continuous high standard of judicial accountability and probity”.
The Committee was further mandated to conduct periodic surveys on behalf of the NJC to measure public perception of level of compliance with ethical standards by the judiciary.
As well as to, “Monitor and report on laxity by judicial officers in observance of ethical standards in the performance of judicial duties”.
Earlier, the NJC which is headed by the CJN, unveiled a new National Judicial Policy (NJP), which was described as a road map for effective Justice sector reform.
Former ICPC Chairman, Justice Ayoola who gave synopsis of the new policy, said it is a “codification of best ways to ensure an integrity driven judiciary whose hallmark is reliable and effective Justice system”.
Similarly, former CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdapher who was Chairman of the event, decried that the Nigerian judiciary hitherto lacked a clear and over-reaching policy structure that defined its core ethics.
He said the new judicial policy is “a laudable and exemplary document that will set a better focus for effective judicial system in the country”.
Legal luminaries at the unveiling ceremony included former CJN, Justice Mohammed Uwais, CJN-designate, Justice Walter Onnoghen, President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, Administrator of the NJI, Justice R.I.P. Bozimo, as well as Chairman and Members of the Senate/House Committees on Judiciary.
Among issues covered by the new judicial blueprint are policies relating to appointment of judicial officers, Judicial Discipline Policy, Judicial Code of Conduct, Judicial Education and Training, Judicial Performance Policy, Access to Justice Policy, Case flow Management Policy, Judicial Administration and Court Management Policy.
Others are Transparency and Anti-Corruption Policy, Judicial Independence Policy, as well as issues relating to the office of the CJN.
Under the Judicial Code of Conduct Policy, Judges and Court employees were barred from accepting gifts from other arms of government.
According to the document, “Judges must be accountable for public funds and property in their care and should be prudent in the management and use of resources”.
Likewise, under Judicial Discipline Policy, allegation of misconduct against judicial officers or employees of the Judiciary shall not be leaked or published in the media.
It gave institutions of the judiciary concerned with investigation or implementation of decisions taken on complaints against Judicial Officers to cease further action where such complaints are leaked or discussed in the media.
The Judicial Appointment Policy stressed that the process must be transparent, merit-based and skill-based.
“A transparent and carefully designed appointment process is indispensable to an efficient and independent judiciary, able to command public confidence in the administration of justice and capable of promoting and protecting the rule of law and human rights.
“Every aspect of judicial appointment process should, therefore, be such as would command public respect and confidence that the best persons in terms of skill, learning, integrity and courage are appointed as judicial officers”, the document stated.