Justice Walter Onnoghen

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has urged judges in the country to sustain the confidence reposed in the judiciary by members of the public through the timely and proper interpretation of the law, noting that such measures would promote peace and stability as well as guarantee safety of investors funds.

To this end, he advised the judges to avail themselves of opportunities to develop themselves and acquire knowledge, particularly in specialised areas of the economy.

The CJN, who gave the charge yesterday at a workshop on Nigerian Local Content Development and Monitoring (Law and Policy) for Justices and Judges in the country in Abuja, stressed: “The adjudicatory duty of a judge can only be performed optimally when he remains up to date with the emerging developments and trends in jurisprudence pertaining to the oil and gas sector.”

The workshop was organised by the JURIS Law Office in Conjunction with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board and the National Judicial Institute (NJI).
“It is our responsibility as Judicial Officers to sustain the public confidence reposed in the judiciary. Hence, you must be seen to be knowledgeable in the law and be in charge of your courts to ensure speedy resolution of disputes which in turn serves to assure investors and other major players in the oil and gas industry that their investments are safe.

“It is on record, my lords, that the timely interventions of the court at critical points in this country have certainly contributed in no small measure to the peace and stability of the country today. I make bold to say, without any fear of contradiction, that the Nigerian Judiciary is a key partner in ensuring stability in the oil and gas sector by interpretation of the relevant laws to the industry,” he said.

Onnoghen noted that the theme of the workshop, ‘The Role of the Judiciary in the Effective Development of Nigerian Content in the oil and gas industry’, is apt as it seeks to highlight matters that are germane and critical to the ongoing reforms being experienced in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.

He therefore advised the judges to have recourse to the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010 when adjudicating over disputes related to Oil and Gas Servicing and Exploration Contracts, adding that the clauses contained in such agreements must respect the stipulation of the Act with regard to deployment of local expertise and manpower in the downstream sector.

“On our own part, the judiciary has been, and will continue to live up to its constitutional mandate by correctly applying the law and proactively supporting the regulators and stakeholders in the oil and gas industry such as the Nigerian Content Development and Management Board (NCDMB) in their bid to ensure growth and stability in the oil and gas sector in line with the rule of law,” he pledged.

On his part, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, while commending the board on its approach so far in ensuring compliance to the act, urged the judiciary to deploy the full weight of the law against defaulters. “The NCDMB has been using carrot and stick approach in enforcing compliance with local content law administratively.

“It is now appropriate for the judiciary to use the stick in line with the rule of law to ensure total compliance.”

Also speaking, Administrator of the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Justice Rosaline Bozimo, who was represented by the Institute Secretary, Abubakar Maidona, said Judges are required to posses adequate knowledge and skills on oil and gas to efficiently adjudicate on the cases that may come before them.
“This has ultimately informed the need for this workshop to be held so as to expose judicial officers to legal and technical aspects of the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.”

In his remarks, the Executive Secretary, NCDMB, Simbi Wabote, solicited the support of the judiciary to achieve, “our drive to create wealth for local businesses and jobs for our teeming populace in line with the law.”
He stressed that an enabling regulatory framework backed with the appropriate legislation is fundamental for sustainable local content practice.

“In Nigeria, we have moved from the ‘best endeavour’ environment into the one in which there are laws in place thus it is no longer optional or debatable whether to comply.
“Much of the 28 per cent local content achievement has been done using the passion and commitment of the various directorates in the board.

“Our next big leap from 28 per cent to 70 per cent in-country value retention will require step change in the enforcement of the law to drive reversal of capital outflow.
We need the support of the judiciary to achieve our drive to create wealth for local businesses and jobs for our teeming populace in line with the law,” he said.