By Ayoni M. Agbabiaka
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed his administration readiness at ensuring that the Judiciary is financially independent and upholds the respect it has earned overtime.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of 2021 all Nigeria Judges’ biennial conference held at the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Abuja, Monday, the President who was represented by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osnbajo said, “If we are seen as inefficient and ineffective, we would lose out to more efficient systems.”
He added: “The other point that I think must be made is that of judicial integrity. There is nothing more important than for judges to be trusted for honesty and integrity,” he said.
On myriad of challenges slowing down the judicial system, he maintained that more needed to be done to strike a balance between a high level of productivity, the quality of judicial decisions, and careful consideration of cases.
“My administration, through the Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the National Judicial Council, has been working towards the resolution of challenges like lack of basic strategic infrastructure that will provide ease is case management, including electronic recording of proceedings to replace the tedious longhand recording currently practiced in the majority of our courts. Advancements in court room technology (E-Court systems) to enhance documentation, accuracy, security, and accessibility of records, enhanced welfare of judicial officers among others.”
He said his administration would not allow a few to undermine the respect that the country’s Judiciary has built up in over a century of its existence. He added that, the respect and trust that have been earned by the third arm of government transcend the Nigeria shore.
In retaining greater public confidence by the citizens, the Judiciary according to the President must be independent from all forms of interference and must maintain the highest level of responsiveness, professional standards, and integrity.
Earlier chief justice of Nigeria Hon. Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad has stated that Nigeria democratic system would have crumbled if not for the constant judicial interventions.
The CJN said, “I make bold to state further that, but for the timely intervention of the Nigerian Judiciary, our present democratic status would have probably collapsed and fallen like a pack of ill-arranged cards.”
Despite numerous challenges in the judicial system, the CJN tasked the judges to demonstrate sincerity of purpose to the public who are their primary constituent’s assessors.
“Consequently, we must rise to the challenge and restore public confidence in our judicial system by desisting from giving incessant ex-parte orders that have portrayed the Judiciary in bad light.
We have taken steps at the National Judicial Council to address the issue of granting incessant ex-parte applications and will continue to ensure that our judicial officers carry out their duties in line with the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers.
The scale of justice is fair and equitable. Thus, I urge my Lords to realize that stringent application of procedural rules and technicalities that do not lead to the attainment of substantial justice is clearly against modern perceptions of justice. We must therefore do substantive justice through the rigorous application of the law as it is and not as we perceive it to be.”
“I hereby report on a sad note that very few states have implemented the Agreement entered into in June. While the Constitution specifically mandates that all monies due to the Judiciary should be given to the Heads of Courts, such provisions are complied with more in breach than obedience. Majority of the Heads of Courts still go caps in hands to the Governors to beg for what is constitutionally due to them.
As such, I urge the State Governors to emulate the Federal by ensuring that Section 121 (3) of the 1999 (as amended) is fully adhered to and implemented. I counsel the Governors of all the States of the Federation that the Judiciary cannot be regarded as being independent unless it can adequately meet its needs without going to them for funds. Financial independence is not just desirable; it is crucial, vital, constitutional, and imperative,” he said