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DSS midnight arrest of judges: Legal issues and recommendations (4)

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By Afe Babalola
It is with the above in mind that I recommend the following:

a.Build and strengthen institutions that will outlive individual governments – Governments will come and go but strong governmental institutions will last forever. Government should therefore strengthen institutions such as the NJC to further enhance its capacity to perform its constitutional duty.

This may include an amendment to the provisions of the Constitution regarding membership of the Council. At the moment, the Council draws its membership almost entirely from the legal profession. Only two members who are not members of the profession are to be appointed by the Chief Justice of the Federation.

Furthermore, although five members of the Nigerian Bar Association are permitted to be members, these five persons are by the provisions of the Constitution permitted to sit in the Council only for the purpose of considering the name of persons for appointment to the superior courts of record.

Government on its own must put in place remuneration packages sufficient to attract the most brilliant minds from the bar to the bench

Therefore, where the matter to be discussed relate to discipline of erring judges, the five members of the NBA cannot sit in Council.

This exclusiveness may have for too long unwittingly shielded the judiciary from the pains and lamentations of ordinary Nigerians who daily complain about the slow pace of justice delivery in the country and its attendant problems. It may therefore be helpful to increase the number of members of the council who will come from outside of the profession and the judiciary itself.

b.Improved process of appointment of judicial officers – The NJC itself should take a further look at the process of appointment of judicial officers. Most of the cases in which judges have been accused of corrupt practices are often as a result of judgments which confound the public.

In reality, some of these instances occur not out of corrupt practices but sometimes out of sheer incompetence. This can for example be the only explanation for the refusal of a Judge to deliver a ruling or judgment several months after conclusion of a matter.

The NJC should, therefore, take further steps to ensure that only competent hands are appointed to the bench of the superior court of record. While it has commendably introduced measures to make the process of appointment transparent, it should nevertheless continue to seek ways to improve in this regard

Judgments that      confound the public

Government on its own must put in place remuneration packages sufficient to attract the most brilliant minds from the bar to the bench. With the current economic realities it will be difficult to convince a lawyer who is making a lot of money in private practice and who by remaining in the said private practice is likely to continue to make even more, to jettison his practice for life on the bench. I will address this aspect of my recommendation in fuller details later.

c.Harmonization of law enforcement agencies– Government must also put a stop to the current proliferation of law enforcement agencies.Numerous law enforcement agencies exists which today perform duties traditionally and constitutionally reserved for the Police. Some of these are the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and even the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). Without a doubt the existence of these bodies have greatly eroded the powers and functions of the Nigeria Police Force and contributed in no small measure not only to the prevalence of corruption but also to the huge cost of governance in Nigeria. The vesting of police powers in several agencies without an attendant reduction in incidents of crime or increase in the capacity of those agencies to prevent, detect or investigate crime should alert government to the need for harmonisation of the powers and duties of law enforcement with a view to guarding against further proliferation.

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