The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has reiterated the role of judicial officers in the preservation of democratic principles in the country, descibing corrupt judges as a ‘disaster’.
According to a statement signed by his media assistant, Awassan Bassey, the CJN spoke at the 2018 refresher course for judges with the theme: ‘Enhancing the Quality of Judicial Services’. The programme was held at the National Judicial Council, Abuja on Monday.
The statement said Mr. Onnoghen condemned certain acts of corruption noted among judicial officers and highlighted efforts being taken to sanitise the sector.
“Our nascent democracy has to be nurtured, consolidated and developed. Democracy in itself is nothing if the implication of the fundamental principles enshrined in the constitution of this nation cannot be readily determined in constitutional adjudication by a judiciary manned by upright judicial officers. This is premised on the fact that, as the society depends on justice, those who are singularly advantaged to do justice to all manners of persons must ensure that they themselves are standing upright, far away from all manners of injustice.
“The prestige of the Judiciary is indeed essential in the system of government such as ours in which the Judiciary functions independently. The behaviour of judges is, in the circumstance, closely scrutinised to guarantee continued confidence in the integrity of the courts. The combination of power, responsibility and humanity accounts for both the most exemplary and sometimes, the most regrettable judicial conduct. To this end, judges must exercise decorum in all their undertakings.
“My Lords, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, you will agree with me that a corrupt judge is not only a disgrace to the Bench and the noble profession, but also a disaster to the course of justice and the nation. I must not fail to emphasise here that my definition of corruption is not limited to bribe-taking, but includes the giving of judgements or orders based on any consideration other than legal merit,” the statement said.
According to the statement, the CJN however denied any insinuation that the entire judicial sector was corrupt.
“I must state categorically, however, lest I am accused of the fallacy of hasty generalisation, that the Judiciary in Nigeria is not corrupt or inefficient. It is an established fact that the Judiciary in Nigeria is as good as the best anywhere in the world. Only few judges are found wanting.”
The statement further said Mr. Onnoghen expressed dissatisfaction with the remuneration of judicial workers at the state level, describing this as a major challenge.
“My Lords, it is true that the Judiciary at the federal level enjoys full financial independence. Unfortunately, however, the same cannot be said of the state judiciaries. The funding of the Judiciary is crucial as it is the most important index for assessing its independence.
“The issue of adequate funding at the state level is one of the greatest challenges confronting the Judiciary of this nation. It is imperative that the applicable provisions of the 1999 Constitution be duly amended to solve problems of State judiciaries. It is my hope that within the limits of our limited resources, the judiciary will continuously strive to achieve its constitutional mandate”.