The Chief Justice of the Federation, Mr. Walter Onnoghen, has charged judges to ensure they are upright and that any corrupt judge is not only a disgrace to the law profession, but also a disaster to the course of justice and the nation.
Speaking at the 2018 refresher course for judges with the theme: ‘Enhancing the Quality of Judicial Services’ held at the National Judicial Council, Abuja on Monday, Onnoghen said explained that corruption is not limited to bribe-taking, but includes the giving of judgements or orders based on any consideration other than legal merit.
“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,” he said.
However, Onnoghen denied any insinuation that the entire judiciary is 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,” he said.
He also announced that the NJC would continually ensure, through rigorous screening and painstaking appointment procedures, that the best materials, in terms of learning and character, are appointed to the Bench.
On the remuneration of judicial officers, the CJN described as a “major challenge” especially at the state level.
“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,” he said.
In her remarks, the administrator of the NJI, (Retired) Justice Rosaline Bozimo explained that the aim of the course was to reposition the Nigerian judiciary to effectively perform its statutory role and improve the services rendered to litigants and the public at large.