-The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, Monday, decried that corrupt practices by judicial officers have greatly exposed the Nigerian Judiciary to lots of criticisms.
Onnoghen, who stated this at his first official function, which was the flagging-off of 2016 conference of all Nigeria Judges of the lower courts, said he was ready to wield the big stick against perpetrators of corruption in the Judiciary. “Let me also seize this opportunity to remind us that as Ministers in the Temple of Justice, we must shun all corrupt practices in order to align ourselves with the anti-corruption strides of the current administration”, Justice Onnoghen further tasked Judges participating in the conference. He said: “Your primary role as judges of the Lower Courts is to settle disputes that come before you in accordance with the provisions of the law. “The performance of this onerous task depends on several factors such as strict adherence to the rule of law, the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, access to justice, integrity and independence of the Judiciary. “While acknowledging your competence in discharging your duties, we are not unmindful of the challenges you face, which hinders the smooth administration of justice and exposes the Judiciary to a lot of criticisms. “These challenges are in the areas of inadequate funding/infrastructure/facilities, caseload volume,corrupt practices and most significantly delays in relation to criminal trials, which has contributed to the congestion of our prisons. “Distinguished participants, as guardians of the rule of law, let me remind you that administering justice is crucial to the effective running and stability of a democratic society as well as the peaceful coexistence of its citizens, without which the society will degenerate into anarchy. “It is pertinent to note that an independent, strong, respectable and responsible judiciary is indispensable to the administration of justice and to have such an institution, we must adhere to our Oath of Office as contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers. “As impartial arbiters, we must at all times uphold the rule of law, eliminate unnecessary delays and above all ensure that justice is dispensed promptly, without fear or favour, affection and ill-will to both parties in accordance with the provisions of the Law”. The theme of the biennial conference which is taking place at the National Judicial Institute, NJI, is; ‘The Lower Courts as Veritable Instruments for Justice and Peace in a Democratic Society’. In her welcome address, the Administrator of the NJI, Justice R. P. I. Bozimo, said the conference provides an avenue for lower court Judges to not only update their skills and knowledge, but also refreshes them on contemporary legal issues. “It is important to state that for the Lower Courts to serve as veritable instruments for justice and peace in a democratic society, they must continually demonstrate deep foresight for productivity, exceptional capacity and remarkable courage in the defence of constitutionally guaranteed individual and institutional rights. “In the sixteen years of democratic rule in this our dear Country, it can be said that the Nigerian Judiciary has witnessed both its low and high moments but in all, the Judiciary has always come out stronger. “The developments in the Judiciary have shown that it would rather uphold the rule of substantial justice rather than technicalities of law. “It is important to note that upholding of the rule of substantial justice is actually recourse to peace, and the decisions of courts when based on substantial justice rather than technicalities of law rarely provoke conflict or violence and is mostly celebrated by the society. “By doing so, the democratic tenets that will ensure sustainable democracy are upheld for a better tomorrow”, Justice Bozimo added