….says corrupt judges are disgrace, disaster to the nation
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—-The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Monday, maintained that corruption in the judiciary was not limited to bribe-taking, saying it includes the giving of judgments or orders based on considerations other than legal merit.
He said the National Judicial Council, NJC, under his watch, would tackle the canckerworm head-on with a view to weeding out some “questionable characters” from the Bench.
Justice Onnoghen who spoke at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Refresher Course for Judges and Kadis, held at the National Judicial Institute, NJI, in Abuja, said: “My lords, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, you will all agree with me that a corrupt Judge is not only a disgrace to the Bench and the noble profession, but also a disaster to the course of justice and the nation.
“I must not fail to emphasis here that my definition of corruption is not limited to bribe-taking, but includes the giving of judgements or orders based on any consideration other than legal merit. It is gratifying to note however, that the NJC is already tackling this cankerworm head-on.
“The prestige of the Judiciary is indeed essential in a system of government such as ours in which the judiciary functions independently. The behavior of Judges is, in the circumstance, closely scrutinized to guarantee continued confidence in the integrity of the Courts.
“The combination of power, responsibility and humanity accounts for both the most exemplary and sometimes, the most regrettable judicial conduct. To this end, Judges must exercise decorum in all their undertakings.
“Consequently, the NJC under my watch has constituted the Corruption and Financial Crimes Cases Trial Monitoring Committee, COTRIMCO, which has hit the ground running, to serve as a check on the excesses of some bad eggs amongst us.
” I am confident that in due course of time, our efforts to rid the judiciary of questionable characters shall yield result”, the CJN added, saying the NJC would continually ensure “through rigorous screening and painstaking appointment procedures, that the best materials, in terms of learning and character, get appointed to the Bench”.
He said the designation of Special Courts to handle corruption cases was a step in the right direction as lingering corruption cases would be expeditiously dispensed with.
“It will no longer be business as usual. I must state categorically however, lest I am accused of the fallacy of hasty generalisation, that the Judiciary in Nigeria is not inefficient. It is an established fact that the Judiciary in Nigeria is as good as the best anywhere in the world. Only few Judges are found wanting.
“My lords, distinguished guests, the delay in our justice delivery system is of great concern to me as it must be to you all. This unacceptable situation inevitably dictates the need for a thorough and comprehensive reform of our Justice Sector to ensure access to justice at affordable costs and within a reasonable time”.
In her welcome address, the Administrator of the NJI, Justice R.P.I. Bozimo, said the theme of this year’s course: “Enhancing the Quality of Judicial Services”, was imperative and relevant, saying it strives to reposition the Nigerian Judiciary to effectively perform its statutory role and improve on the services rendered to litigants and the public at large.
She said: “My lords, in order to remain relevant in this ever evolving judicial landscape, the courts must not only be seen to be just, but must provide quality judicial services. In this regard, we must not fail in ensuring that the common man can approach the courts with confidence knowing that access to justice is for all citizens.
“To this end, the speedy and expeditious resolution of cases before our courts is highly encouraged”, Justice Bozimo stated.