By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, has ordered the inspection of all Area, Sharia and Customary courts in the country.
Justice Muhammad said the essence of the inspection was to ascertain the condition of facilities in the courts, noting that such unscheduled visits would assist in keeping judges of the courts on their toes.
The Acting CJN gave the directive in a keynote address he presented at the opening session of the 2019 National Workshop for Directors and Inspectors of Area, Sharia and Customary Courts, held at the National Judicial Institute, NJI, in Abuja, on Monday.
He described the theme of this year’s workshop: “Improving the Quality of Justice Delivery in the Lower Courts”, as apt, saying it would avail participants the platform to discuss ways of developing a standardized and efficient system of administration of justice at the lower courts.
He said: “My Lords, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is a well-known fact that the Area/Sharia/Customary courts adjudicate over a large number of cases in Nigeria, as they are bereft of technicalities and easily accessible to the grassroots.
“This further emphasizes the importance of your duties in the administration of justice.
“In modern day Nigeria, virtually all the states of the federation have established Area/Sharia/Customary Courts within their legal systems, styled in different ways, accommodating the roles of Directors and Inspectors.
“However, in improving the quality of justice delivery as the theme implies, we are not unmindful of the challenges which you face in the daily discharge of your duties,
“These challenges which include inadequate funding, man-power development and inadequate facilities amongst many others, must not deter you in the utmost performance of your duties.
“Consequently, Directors and Inspectors of these courts must be up and doing, as you are expected to pay regular visits to the courts in order to inspect the personnel and the facilities therein.
“Certainly, these visits which I recommend should be mostly unannounced, will assist in keeping the Judges of these courts on their toes.
“Furthermore, inspection on a regular basis will also assist in ascertaining the condition of the facilities in these courts and the productivity of the personnel, W?which will no doubt assist in planning for the future and avoid miscarriage of justice”.
Justice Muhammad equally implored judges of the lower courts to eschew every form of judicial corruption and ensure that they constantly comply with the Code of Conduct for Court Employees.
In her welcome address, the Administrator of the NJI, Justice R.P.l. Bozimo, said the role of the inspectors was to guide against miscarriage of justice by judges of the lower courts.
“Where allegations of bias are made against the Judges of your courts, you should not be easily swayed or carried away to show sympathy to the party complaining without hearing from the Judge. It is advisable for you as Directors and Inspectors to handle such complaint carefully so as not to fall victim to the same allegations of bias.
” I must also observe that your supervisory powers do not extend to reopening of cases after it has been heard and concluded”, Justice Bozimo added.