Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar
By Tobi Soniyi
Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, Monday advised judges of lower courts to be above board, sit promptly and be fair to all patrons of their courts or be ready to face appropriate sanctions by Judicial Service Commissions.
Speaking in Abuja at the opening of the 2012 Biennial Conference of All Nigeria Judges of the lower court organised by the National Judicial Institute (NJI) the CJN noted that the values for which judges were known had changed drastically.
According to her, heads of courts received reports and petitions concerning some judges of lower courts which are rather difficult to believe.
She said: “Allegations of corruption and bribery especially in exchange for grant of bail are almost becoming rampant. There have also been complaints regarding some of you on laziness in the discharge of judicial duties, lateness in sitting and non-sitting at all and son on.
“It is in the light of the above that I find the theme of this conference: Judicial Reforms and the Administrative of Justice timely and germane.”
She called on judges to reform themselves and not be allowed to be pushed into reform.
Mukhtar said: “I must quickly stress that we should let the reform start from the hearts of individuals concerned. I urge that you reform yourselves and allow yourselves to be reformed by amending your conduct that bring dishonour to the judiciary as an institution.”
“Let your conduct be seen to be both ethical and impeccable.”
She recalled her address to Chief Registrars and Secretaries of Judicial Service Commissions during a workshop organised for them by the institute.
“Part of what I said to them then I find relevant for you also. I had said ‘remember that the judiciary as an arm of government does not have a garrison of soldiers or police to compel compliance with its orders, ruling and judgments. Rather, the judiciary relies and survives only on public confidence. This public confidence will be eroded by your actions and in-actions.
The centrality of the judiciary to the continued existence of any society can hardly be over stressed and ones the public loses its confidence in the organ of government charged with adjudication and justice delivery, then that society is no doubt set for extinction’ “ she declared.
She urged the judges to be above board, sit promptly at 9 a.m. and be fair to litigants and other patrons of their courts.
The CJN further advised them to lead their staff by example adding that by so doing, the image of the judiciary would continue to receive high rating in the opinion of the public.
“Let me add however that the Judicial Service Commissions of various jurisdictions will not hesitate to administer appropriate sanctions to any judge of the court found wanting,” she declared.
In his welcome address, the Administrator of the NJI, Justice Umaru Eri, decried the practice of remanding in prison custody of suspects who were unable to pay their debts or other related cases of overnight cases like theft wandering, petty quarrels or assault due to their inability to grease the palms of judges of the lower courts.
He said: “Year in year out we gather to talk shop about congestion in our prisons. The truth must be told that we share in the blame and this must stop forthwith.
“From statistics and my personal knowledge of the prisons 50 per cent of the warrants of those awaiting trials are signed by judges of the lower courts, that is to say Magistrates, Area Court and Customary Court judges.”