By Abdulwahab Abdulah
A leading judicial non government organisation, Access to Justice, AJ, has urged the Chief Judge of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, to immediately declare a state of emergency in Nigeria’s judiciary to pave the way for reforms.
Executive Director of the organisation, Mr. Joseph Otteh, at a press conference, yesterday lamented that there were irregularities plaguing the system, maintaining that taking radical steps were the options to save the arm of government.
Otteh said that the call became necessary as the judiciary commenced the new legal year, maintaining that overhauling the judiciary into a respectable voice of the rule of law and a strong pillar of democracy was non negotiable.
“During an event to mark the beginning of a new legal year two weeks ago, Mr. Onnoghen had admitted that the judiciary faced “numerous challenges” in the previous year and outlined major reforms in the sector, including a directive that lawyers representing anyone in court must not exceed five at a sitting.
“There is need to revive the judiciary so that it can serve the citizens’ expectations as a truly independent institution that is confident of the integrity of its members as well as one that enjoys the confidence of the people,” Otteh said.
Otteh also called for a financial disclosure reporting system as done in other jurisdictions where all extrajudicial payments to judges are self-reported and judges submit periodic financial disclosure reports.
“The review should enable the NJC act on anonymous complaints, protect whistle blowers, and collaborate with official anti-corruption agencies to investigate allegations of corruption.
“Corruption is a problem in lower courts across the country, and many states do not have credible or effective systems for fighting corruption within their respective jurisdictions.
“The NJC should immediately direct heads of courts in State and Federal jurisdictions to establish effective disciplinary regulations or guidelines applicable to both lower court ‘judges’ and court staff, and increase efforts to stamp out corruption from the lower courts,” he said.
Corroborating the position, deputy directir, AJ, Dr Adenike Ayedun said, “Without an iota of doubt, Nigerians want to see more judicial reforms executed, with more speed and urgency.
“We need more traction and more resolve applied in the fight to transform the delivery of justice in Nigeria. Our concern is that the current speed and pace of reforms is neither strong nor vibrant enough and it is not creating the kind of momentum or impetus that Nigerians are eager to see,” Aiyedun added.