19th September, 2011
The Supreme Court of Nigeria on Monday resumed a new legal year after the usual annual vacation.
At a special session of the court marking the event, the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher read the riot act to corrupt judges in the country tasking them to shape up or bow out of the system.
He threatened that there would be no middle ground or space on the bench for unworthy arbiters.
The charge by Justice Mustapher came on the heels of the declaration by the President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Joseph Daudu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, that the failure of the nationâ€™s judiciary to provide authentic, credible and realistic justice to Nigerians has escalated the acts of terrorism, assassinations and unresolved killings as people now resort to self help.
Daudu stated that there is a growing perception backed up by empirical evidence that justice is purchasable and it has been purchased on several occasions in Nigeria and observed that the nation is reaching a point in time where accusations of corruption in the system will be at its loudest.
Justice Musdapher in his speech stated that â€œthe bench on which I have sat for over 32 years is my home. And though I am approaching the final mile of my career on the bench, it shall forever remain a part of my being. Therefore permit me to first of all assure you that my home, our home, the last hope of the common man shall not fail under our watch.”
The Acting CJN admitted that happenings at the nation’s judiciary in recent times are not as they ought to be.
“Though we have always done our best I feel it is honourable to admit that things are not as they ought to be. Since the judiciary exists for the benefit of the society, then the essential verdict regarding our performance must be from that which we sit to serve. As it stands, it appears that the society we serve is not entirely satisfied with our performance. Hard as it may be to accept, we feel it is less important to focus on whether this assessment is fair or not. The important thing is for us to transparently come to terms with the prevailing realities, accept the gap in expectations and do our utmost to bridge it,â€ he added.
Justice Musdapher reassured that the apex court is fully aware of the weighty responsibilities hanging on its shoulders and pledged that the court will discharge them with vigour, truth and dignity and emphasised that the efficacy of exercising constitutional judicial power is firmly anchored on a moral authority that rests on public confidence.
â€œThe judiciary commands no armies and collects no taxes as its authority rests squarely in the publicâ€™s perceptions of its propriety. Public confidence in the judge and the judicial system reinforces conviction in the judge and the judicial system and enhances conviction for the attainment of justice and enhances the willingness of the populace to subjugate before the law,â€ he declared.
Justice Musdapher further noted that it is very important to ensure that those who abuse the privilege of judicial authority are exposed, expunged, banished and punished.
“I feel it is necessary at this point to strongly advise that those who cannot sustain true allegiance to their judicial oaths and abide by all the demands of the code of conduct for judicial officers to bow out immediately. I urge you to realise that there is no middle ground and no space on the bench for those adjudged to be unworthy arbiters of truth. The choice is simple and our resolve is absolute, henceforth there shall be zero tolerance for judicial corruption or misconductâ€.
The Acting CJN whose confirmation by the Senate comes up next week also pledged to reform the justice sector to make room for a simple, fast and efficient justice delivery.
â€œWe are poised to commence a broad overhaul of the judicial system with a view to increasing judicial efficiency and enhance the perception of the public regarding our capacity to dispense justice in her pure form. A judicial reform committee shall soon be formed to look into the problems and proffer solutions that shall be implemented immediately.
â€œThe current mode of judicial appointments must also be reviewed. We believe that there is considerable merit in the call to diversify the pool from which judicial appointments to superior courts are made. A wider diversity of experience will undoubtedly add quality to judicial deliberations in our courts,â€ he stated.
Daudu pointed out that this time when the various election tribunals are in the process of delivering judgments is a precarious time and observed that the Court of Appeal is beginning to feel the strain or effect of the over balkanization of the court into numerous divisions by way of conflicting decisions on very serious matters in the electoral process.
The NBA President stated that as things stand, the decisions of the Court of Appeal on the manner of initiating pre-hearing session which is a prelude or condition precedent to the actual hearing of an election petition is conflicting.
“As things stand today the decision of the Abuja, Markudi, Calabar and Kaduna divisions of the court are conflicting. This state of affairs does not help the judicial process. Firstly, people read meanings into the inability of high ranking judges to state a clear position on a simple statute. Secondly, discordance will ultimately exacerbate recourse to self help and extra judicial measures. No wonder assassinations, unsolved killings and terrorism are on the rise in Nigeria. The root cause is failure to provide authentic, credible and indeed realistic justice to Nigerians,â€ he stated.
By Nnamdi Felix / Abuja