By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Tanko Muhammad, has declared the readiness of the National Judicial Council, NJC, to investigate and sanction Judges across the federation that engaged in acts of judicial malfeasance.
Consequently, the CJN, who doubles as Chairman of the NJC, urged anyone aggrieved by the conduct of any judicial officer to forward a petition to the legal body for appropriate action, saying his administration has zero-tolerance for corruption within the judiciary.
Justice Muhammad maintained that the Supreme Court is ready for any eventuality and equally well prepared to keep the country together as one indivisible entity through effective and efficient justice delivery.
He spoke after he received members of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, led by their Chairman, Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, who paid a courtesy visit to the Apex Court on Wednesday.
According to a statement that was signed by the Director, Press & Information at the Supreme Court, Dr Akande Festus, the CJN, stressed that the Court, being the highest and final court in the land, is always very critical and conscious of every case that comes before it on appeal.
He said as such, Justices of the apex court always put in a concerted effort by doing a critical review of all facts and evidence before them to arrive at a decision in order to give justice to all parties in a free, fair and generally acceptable manner without any iota of equivocation.
‘’We are all seasoned judicial officers that were appointed to the Supreme Court based on merit, experience and qualification. We are bound by the oath we have subscribed to and thus discharge our responsibilities without deference to anybody and we will continue to do so.
“We are never above board as human beings, so we are open to constructive criticisms. It may interest you to know that before we deliver any ruling or judgment, no matter how small it is, even if it is only five sentences, we have to hold a conference with all the Justices on the panel and could even expand it in some critical situations to involve all the justices of the court. The sole aim of this practice is to ensure that justice is given in every case before us, no matter how infinitesimal it might be because we are the final court in the land.
“Our judgments are always all-encompassing and must, at all times, reflect the feelings and views of every Justice on the panel. Dissenting judgments are always encouraged because we cannot see things from the same perspective”.
The statement further disclosed that the CJN assured his visitors that the Supreme Court, “would continue to dispense justice in a free and fair manner that every citizen will be happy to say at the end of the day that justice is done, except of course, for those people who will only accept that justice is done when it favours them and not when the right thing is done”.
He urged the PACAC members to help impress on the Executive, the need to be releasing all funds meant for the Judiciary at the appropriate time to avoid halting its operations.
He further appealed to them to always offer advice whenever the need arises and not to also hesitate to forward petitions against any erring Judge to the NJC, saying his administration is poised to maintain a zero-tolerance for corruption within the Judiciary.
‘’If you have any complaint against any judicial officer, you can approach the National Judicial Council immediately with your petition. I can assure you that it will be looked into quickly and the required action will be taken against such judge. We are maintaining a zero-tolerance for corruption. If you see us going the wrong way, based on your own understanding, you should quickly call our attention because we are amenable to correction, as it is only the almighty God that is infallible.’’
Earlier in his address, the Chairman of PACAC, Prof. Sagay, SAN, said the committee was at the court on a congratulatory visit to the CJN for his well-deserved appointment as the Chief Judicial Officer of the Federation.
‘’We are here to express our solidarity and also show appreciation with the way the Chief Justice of Nigeria is treating corruption cases in the court. Contrary to what people have been saying, neither I nor my committee is hostile to the Judiciary.
“We, therefore, urge the Supreme Court of Nigeria, being the apex court of the country, to always use Justice as the basis of judgment and not the law.
“Whenever there is a clash between justice and law, justice should always prevail. There should never be a situation where law will take the place of justice”.
He urged both the CJN and other Justices of the Supreme Court to always make sure that once there is a situation where there seemed to be no remedy or a way out of a nebulous issue, that they apply their well-endowed wisdom to find a way out to save the county from any form of breakdown or chaos.
‘’We want the golden era where developed countries learn from our own Supreme Court to be re-enacted because that is the bastion of our national pride. Fighting corruption is a collective task and we are here to join force with the Judiciary to take this anti-corruption fight to a logical conclusion for the good of our dear country. We congratulate you on your appointment and wish you a fruitful tenure’’, Sagay added.
Other Justices of the Supreme Court on hand to receive the visitors were Justices Sylvester Ngwuta, Mary Odili and Amiru Sanusi.