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If Saints are appointed from Heaven as Justices, Judges, they will be corrupt — Senate
*** Calls for A Special Intervention Fund for Judiciary
***Says Democracy Can’t Survive with a Compromised Judiciary
*** Judiciary is a Saint when One Juxtaposes Corruption with other Systems, NJC
By Henry Umoru
The Senate said on Monday that with the level of corruption in the Country and very low welfare package for justices, judges and judicial officers if saints are appointed from heaven to take charge of the process, they will be corrupt.
The Senate has also said that no democracy can survive with a Compromised Judiciary, just as it made a passionate case for the establishment of Special Intervention Fund that would help in improving funding for Judiciary and welfare package for Justices, Judges and Judicial officers, even as it stressed the urgent for financial autonomy for the Judiciary.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja during the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters Screening of Hon. Justices John Tsoho and Benedict Bakwaph Kanyip as the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria respectively, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, All Progressives Congress, APC, Ekiti Central said that the story which had dominated the political space has been that Judiciary is corrupt.
According to him, Nigerians have extreme urgent expectations from the Nation’s Judges and justices, even as he said that it was time Nigeria changed the narrative, time for Nigeria to show that we are serious and understand the full and true meaning of the independence of the judiciary.
Senator Bamidele said, “For so long, has the story dominated our political space that our Judiciary is corrupt. As far as we are concerned, it is time Nigeria to change the narrative, it is time for Nigeria to show that we are serious and we understand the full and true meaning of the independence of the judiciary, a cardinal aspect of it is financial independence.
“We are concerned as a committee and as a senate, that we must not allow the rest of the international community to leave us behind.
“Something urgently needs to be done about the plight of the Nigerian Judiciary. No Nigerian will not be surprised to hear that when a judge has to go out of the station all he gets us N25, 000 to stay in a hotel, and you wonder which hotel.
“Essentially, my Lord, we are concerned about the welfare of our justices, our judges and the judicial officers
“Under the present set of circumstances, if we appoint saints from heaven, assuming we are able to do so, to serve on our bench as justices and judges, it is only the strength of character of the individual judge and justices that can prevent him from being corrupt.
“No one will endorse or support corruption, and as far as we are concerned, it is also not a moral history, it is a sociological history and it needs to be addressed materially, thought very special and extra-budgetary provision.
“We are convinced that there is the need to make available to our Judiciary a special intervention fund and I believe this will be an issue for both the legislative and executive arms of government to address most speedily beyond the current budgetary provision.”
But in a swift reaction to the alleged corruption in the Judiciary, the National Judicial Council (NJC) Executive Secretary, Ahmed Gambo Saleh said that if the corruption there was juxtaposed with other Systems in the Country, the Judiciary will be Saint.
Saleh said “the welfare packages for judicial officers in this country is nothing to write home about. Judges’ salaries were last reviewed in 2007.
“I don’t think that there’s all that corruption in the judiciary. But when the so-called corruption in the judiciary is weighed against what is obtainable in other systems, the judiciary would be a saint.”
Speaking immediately after the screening, the Chairman of the Committee said, “Our committee interviewed Hon. Justice J T Tsoho and Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip and received an explanation regarding their life, their own experience, their qualifications, confidence and suitability to assume the positions of Honourable Chief Judge, Federal High Court and Honourable President National Industrial Court.
“We report that they answered questions on topical, legal and contemporary issues.
“We consider this confirmation therein on behalf of the 9th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to be a very unique and very historic development and it is really our pleasure to have spent time with you.
“As we round off this confirmation hearing, as we also proceed to lay our report and recommendation before the Senate, it is important that we once again emphasise on the need for collaboration on what has become a collective vision: the vision of our committee, the vision of the 9th senate, and no doubt, the vision of Nigerians who are convinced that no democracy can grow or survive with a compromised Judiciary that we drive the vision to ensure there is urgent and unusual attention that is paid to the plight of the Nigerian Judiciary.”
Bamidele who hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for funding the Judiciary, but asked for additional funding, said, “On behalf of this committee and Senate, we want to commend the president, Muhammad Buhari for the continued funding of the judiciary since he became president.
“And in commending Mr President, for us to say as elected representatives of the people that it is not yet Uhuru. A lot still needs to be done. And for us to be able to catch up, there is a need for special intervention fund. Details of which we believe with the leadership of the legislature, we have to work out with the executive arm of government and after the special intervention fund, we can then agree on how there can be consistent increase on an annual basis in the annual budget of the nation as far as the judiciary is concerned.”
Speaking further, the Committee Chairman who explained to the nominees to ensure a holistic reform of Judiciary as well as provide the best of leadership that would change the narrative, said, “I call on the lordship to do their best in the event that the Senate after laying our reports and recommendations chooses to confirm your lordship, as chief judge of the federal high court and president national industrial court, do you best to provide the kind of leadership and also join and spearhead the subtle struggle for the improvement of the welfare of our judicial officers and do all you can to endure that the reforms we need in the judicial sector are driven home. Because without these reforms all these efforts will continue to be a highway to nowhere.”
The Senate Committee, Human Rights and Legal Matters with Senator Bamidele as Chairman is made up 14 members and they are all Lawyers and the Vice-Chairman is Senator Emmanuel Oker- Jev, PDP, Benue.
Other members of the Committee are Senators Bala Ibn Na’Allah, APC, Kebbi; Abdullahi Adamu, APC, Nasarawa; Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed, APC, Adamawa; James Manager, PDP, Delta; Lawrence Ewhudjakpo, Bayelsa; Bashir Ajibola, Osun; Chukwuka Utazi, Enugu; Ike Ekweremadu, Enugu; Gabriel Suswam, Benue; Peter Nwaoboshi, Delta; Benjamin Uwajumogu, Imo and Ibrahim Hassan Hadeja, Jigawa.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had last week written to the Senate, asking the Senate to confirm the appointments of Hon. Justices John T. Tsoho and Benedict Bakwaph Kanyip as the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria respectively.
The nominees were referred to Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters chaired by Opeyemi Bamidele, APC, Ekiti Central to report back at Plenary in one week.
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