15th June, 2011
The recent visit of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC,Â Mrs. Farida Waziri, has continued to receive knocks from stakeholders who are questioning the reason behind such a courtesy call.
The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, on Wednesday joined the fray as itÂ stated that the visit is questionable.
Mr. Joseph Daudu, president of the association stated this at the valedictory session held in honour of the former Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Dan Abutu.
Specifically, Mr. Daudu stated that he had received calls from well meaning members of the Bar concerning the visit of the new Chief Judge, the highly respected Justice Ibrahim Auta, to the office of the Chairman of EFCC a few days ago.
He stated that no matter how well intentioned and harmless the visit may be, it is inappropriate as the Â EFCC is a prime litigant, having so many high calibre cases before the Federal High Court and noted that the anti-graft agency is for all intent and purposes, a party before that court. It is therefore unseeming for judges of that court to visit a prosecuting entity.
According to the NBA president, “the visit will raise so many questions that will bring the independence and impartiality of the court needlessly into question.
He added that it is not dignified for a court to make such courtesy visits.Â “It is demeaning to the dignity and prestige of the court for judges to file out of their hallowed chambers and troop to the office of Government functionaries for whatever reason. Will the Lord Chief Justice of England and his judges pay a visit to the Metropolitan commissioner in Scotland Yard over matters that are before his court?” he queried.Â That, he argued, will never happen.Â Â
Furthermore, he said the courts must strive to adhere to the concept of separation of powers.”That laudable concept is eroded by unnecessary interaction between functionaries of these arms of government. Justice, my lord is a delicate ornament. It must be kept shining and transparent at all times.”The impression must never be given that one party (litigant) before the court has an advantage over the other. It is likely to breach the concept of fair hearing. It is not the hearing that matters but availing the parties the opportunity of being heard,” he observed.
The former Chief Judge in his speech, said that if delays in the trial of cases must be overcome, a further amendment of the constitution was imperative to remove parties rights to interlocutory appeals.”On the vexed issue of delay in the trial of cases, most of the delays are caused by adjournments which are mostly at the instance of the parties and occasionally at the instance of the court.
However, interlocutory motions and interlocutory appeals are the other causes of delays. It seems the only way we can combat the problem of delay is by regulation.
“The constitution must be amended and the provisions therein which gives parties the right to file interlocutory appeals and to apply for stay of proceedings pending appeal should be amended.”On the issue of corruption in the judiciary, the former CJ noted that experiences in this country have shown that petitions can be addressed to the National Judicial Council, not only against non members and members of the council some of whom are serving judicial officers, but also against the chairman of the council.”I think because the council has disciplinary powers, the head of the judiciary should not be the chairman of the National Judicial Council. If the head of the judiciary is the chairman of the council, when, God forbid, we have a delinquent head of the judiciary it will be difficult to discipline him,” he said.
Furthermore, Justice Abutu said that the funding of the judiciary through the National Judicial Council has to a large extent, solved most of the problems hitherto experienced by the judiciary, particularly the federal judiciary.
By Â Nnamdi Felix/AbujaÂ