*Constitutes committee on prevention of corruption in judiciary
*Says he’s satisfied with judges’ performance
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, Tuesday in Abuja absolved the judiciary of frequent inability of the courts to establish convictions on matters before them.
Answering questions from journalists after visiting President Muhammadu Buhari in the Presidential Villa, the CJN said it was improper for anyone to blame the judge for frequent adjournment of cases caused by litigants with attendant consequence on final verdict.
He also said it was not the responsibility of the judge to investigate matters before him and provide evidence, pointing out that it was only the responsibility of the judge to listen and decide.
Onnoghen, who said he was in the State House to welcome the president back from London where he attended the Commonwealth meeting, added that the visit was also important because a forum for interaction between two arms of government was important to keep the president informed of developments in the judiciary.
“I am here to felicitate with Mr. President. As you are aware, he has just returned from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as the head of federal government delegation and there is also the need for regular interaction to keep him abreast of latest development in the judiciary.
“Now, l believe that you know, with your experience of many years of practice that there has never been a situation in which any case was taken to court and decided upon and the judge was not there to listen to the case or having finished hearing, he refused to deliver judgment.
“So, when cases are not tried expeditiously and the judge is there, ready to listen to the case, you come and for one reason or the other, you take a date to adjourn the case, and the courts grant the adjournment which is normal during proceedings, you cannot turn round and blame the judge for that.
“These are the basic things that everybody must know. We must all work together, cooperate for the system to move forward. But if you keep thinking that the judiciary is the culprit in this delay process, you are not telling the whole story.
“It is not the judiciary that would go and arrest someone before looking for evidence. It is not the judiciary that would go into investigations. No, we do not operate the inquisitional mode of justice as it is practised by the French. Our own is that an independent body must investigate, prosecute while the judge decides,” the CJN said.
The CJN, who said he was satisfied with the performance of judges so far, said he had set up a commission to ensure the prevention of corruption among judges.
“Yes, so far, so good. Under the circumstances, l must admit that so far, so good. It is in order to enable you know the workings of the system that l set up the COMPRECO ( Commission for the Prevention of Corruption) committee,” he said.
He also said part of the commission’s responsibility was to look into reasons that blames are often traded among judges, investigators and prosecutors.
“All along, everybody is passing buck. The prosecution will say it is not our responsibility. We are not the cause of the delay. The investigator will say l am not the cause. The judge will say, l am not the cause.
“So, the people must know who is the cause of the delay? That is why l set up that committee. And it is made up of both the defence counsel, the prosecutor and the judiciary under the NJC,” he said.
On when special courts will be set up to try corruption cases, the CJN said it is the responsibility of the executive and legislature to set up court and not that of the judiciary.
“It is the executive in conjunction with the legislature that has the prerogatives of setting up courts, including the special courts, under our Constitution and not the Judiciary. Once the executive sets up such courts, the judiciary will run it by providing the manpower,” he said.