By Kenneth Atavti
Critical stakeholders in Nigeria’s Judiciary have restated calls for independence of the Judiciary and financial autonomy, to give the sector more leverage in the discharge of its duties.
This was the submission of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, while speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the All Nigerian Judges’ Conference of the Superior Courts held at the Andrews Otutu Obaseki Auditorium of the National Judicial Institute, NJI Abuja.
He said the long-standing issue of the Judiciary’s independence cum financial autonomy has made “some Judiciaries” to be “so starved of funds that it is only by sheer doggedness and stubborn will of the Heads of Judiciaries that the machinery of justice has not totally collapsed”.
The CJN said the Nigerian society is becoming more sophisticated, thus “the need for efficient and speedy justice delivery system increases, neglect of the Judiciary becomes more pronounced”.
Justice Ariwoola noted that the lack of sufficient funding to run the Judiciary “has perpetuated the practice of Heads of Courts (particularly those within the State Judiciaries) going cap in hand to beg for funds with which to run their Courts”.
“Even more worrisome is the fact that the foregoing is often seen as an irresistible opportunity to “pocket” judicial officers and manipulate the outcome of decisions where cases that are of interest to the government are sub justice. Of course, where judicial officers refuse to cave in or allow their integrity to be bought, they become victims of persistent hounding and intimidation.
“Unsurprisingly, the issues which I have raised so far are not without rippling effects. One of the grave repercussions is the impertinence with which the decisions of the Court are treated with orders of the Court being flagrantly disobeyed,” he added.
On his part, Administrator of the National Judicial Institute, Justice Salisu Garba, harped that in spite of the constraints and challenges faced by the Judiciary, the works done day in day out, “especially in upholding the Rule of Law and invariably standing as bulwarks against the breakdown of law and order in society, is both stellar and praiseworthy”.
“Skewed narratives or accounts of the Judiciary and indeed the performance of judicial officers are often presented to the world at large. Left unchecked, the foregoing has a blighting effect on the Judiciary and adversely impacts how it is perceived by the general public. In this regard, you will agree with me that the media plays a most crucial role since they have the ability to shape the public’s opinion and indeed their apprehension of diverse issues including the workings of the justice system,” he added.