By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Wednesday, revealed that he turned down request by Judges across the country to be allowed to form an association to speak up for the judiciary when it is attacked.
He said the proposed Association of Nigerian Judges, if allowed, would have had the mandate of defending embattled judges, just like the Nigeria Bar Association does for lawyers, since sitting judicial officers are barred from granting media interviews.
The CJN who disclosed that the proposal was presented to him during the 2017 All Nigerians Judges’ Conference, said he rejected the idea considering that the primary responsibility of a judicial officer is adjudication and not advocacy.
“The honourable Judges’ position was that periodic press statements issued after the meetings of the National Judicial Council are too few and far between to make any impact.
“My obvious response was an emphatic No! The mandate of a judicial officer is adjudication and not advocacy”, the CJN insisted.
Justice Onnoghen made the revelation while unveiling ‘Apex Quarterly Magazine’, a Supreme Court publication he said would help to improve the public perception of the judiciary.
He said the publication would help to counter “the widespread perception of the judiciary is an inefficient and corruption-ridden institution lacking integrity and efficiency in performance of its functions”.
According to the CJN, “I consider the poor public perception kd our arm of government a grave concern that requires special effort to correct by telling the world the true state of things in the judiciary.
“As I have said several times in the past, cautiously opening up the judiciary to the public helps to change the wrong perception people have of the activities of the Courts. Where people are well informed, incidents of rumours, fake news, false allegations, petitions, among others, are reduced.
“And as I have always insisted, we must be in absolute control of our Institutions and Courts as well as what information we put in the public domain. This effort will ensure that we do less of damage control, and more of pro-active dissemination of information.
“The Apex Quarterly Magazine, which I will be unveiling presently, is one, but certainly not the only step taken to show the world what we do in the judiciary”, he added.
Besides, the CJN said he has directed the Chief Registrar of the apex court to reconstitute the court’s website management committee to ensure among other things, that Chamber’s Sittings were uploaded on the site not later than 24 hours after every sitting on Wednesdays.
“I also directed that the website should be re-designed to render it compatible with both desktops and handheld devices. In addition, I gave instructions that the Court’s Practice Directions should be regularly uploaded and updated while the bio-data of Justice of the Supreme Court and the Cause List should be regularly updated.
“In the same vein, I have directed that all judgments and decisions of the Court should be uploaded on the website within seven days of delivery.
“The objective of these directives is to, as I said earlier, cautiously open the judiciary to the public”, the CJN stated.
Aside serving and retired Supreme Court Justices, other dignitaries at the event included the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Abdu-Kafarati, President of the National Industrial Court, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, as well as heads of courts from various states of the federation.