By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, on Monday, said the only way the judiciary could regain public confidence was for judges to exhibit a tireless commitment to improving the quality of justice delivery in the country.
Justice Muhammad, in a keynote address he delivered at the opening ceremony of the 2019 Roundtable for Heads of Court, held at the National Judicial Institute, NJI, in Abuja, stressed that judges must always consider the human consequences of cases that are brought before their courts.
He said there was a need for courts across the federation to embrace Information and Communication Technology, ICT, which he noted has radically altered the channels and methods of human interaction.
“The fact that Nigerian legal jurisprudence must strive to keep up with these advancements in human interaction cannot be overemphasized”, the Acting CJN added, saying each jurisdiction in the Nigerian Judiciary must aspire to implement guidelines provided by the Judicial Information Technology Policy, JITPO.
He said: “It gives me great pleasure to be in your midst and address you this morning on this auspicious occasion of the first-ever Roundtable for Heads of Courts.
“This occasion is historic as it is the first of its kind. This Roundtable is designed by the Education Committee of the National Judicial Institute to strengthen the administrative capacity of the Heads of Courts in Nigeria.
“It will, therefore, create an avenue for the Heads of Courts as judges in administrative positions to be equipped with the requisite administrative skills aimed at effective justice delivery.
“My Lords, for the Courts to be efficient in the discharge of its functions, there must be an effective Court Management system. To this end, the National Judicial Policy which was formulated by the NJC in 2016 reiterates that strategies shall be put in place to achieve the goals of Judicial Administration vis-a-vis the inherent power in the Courts under Section 6(6) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended).
“The policy directs the Head of each Judiciary to establish an efficient Court management structure that will provide tools and support services in order to ensure high performance, productivity, speedy and fair administration of justice which will not influence on the independence of the judiciary.
“My Lords, in time past, courts in Nigeria have experienced an exponential increase in the number and complexity of cases before them, which has been accompanied by increasing public expectations regarding the timeliness and access to justice.
The Judiciary has been able to meet up with these expectations through successive policy reforms to curtail delays in justice administration.
“Judicial independence encompasses not only control and authority over the legal decisions devoid of external influences but also an array of administrative powers of courts and judicial institutions.
“This includes authority over budgeting, information technology, human resources, allocation of judicial services, supply chain management, judicial selection, retentions, assignment as well as the education and training of judges and their support staff.’
“My Lords, against the backdrop of the recent inauguration of the Presidential Implementation Committee on Autonomy of the State Judiciary and Legislature which some of you are key members, it is my hope that this committee will come up with recommendations that will bring about the full implementation of 8.161 of the 4th alteration to the 1999 Constitution (As Amended).
“I must not fail to encourage your Lordships that you should display the characteristics of a steady leader, warm colleague and a caring friend to other Judges and Court Staff.
“You should also be keenly aware of the human consequences of the cases that come before the Courts, displaying tremendous sensitivity, wisdom, and decency in considering the impact of administrative decisions.
“There should be a tireless commitment to improving the quality of justice delivery in the courts. To this end, you Should painstakingly make efforts to improve the process of your courts in ways that promote confidence in the judicial system and reflect the philosophy taught to us by our founding fathers “Work hard, treat people fairly, and the rest will take care of itself”, the CJN added.
In her welcome address, the Administrator of the NJI, Justice R.P.I. Bozimo said the Judiciary, as an arbiter of justice, must come to terms with expectations of the general populace and international community in the delivery of its services, leveraging on information technology and global best practices in the conduct of the business of the court.
According to Justice Bozimo, “My Lords, to remain relevant in this ever-changing judicial landscape, the courts must provide excellent judicial services efficiently, speedily and must be just in its decisions which should be devoid of any external influence or compromise.
“To this end, the Heads of Courts must ensure that all Judicial Officers and Court Staff adhere strictly to their respective Code of Conduct”.