Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Monday described a weak judiciary as a recipe for anarchy, impunity, poverty, underdevelopment and instability.
The CJN, however, asserted that the entrenchment of the rule of law, which is the corner stone of any democratic system can thrive if the judiciary dispenses justice fairly, timely and justly.
He stated this while declaring open a one-day symposium for judges and jurists on Section 84 of the Evidence Act, 2011.
The symposium organised by the National Judicial Institute (NJI) was aimed at providing participants with the opportunity to brainstorm and share knowledge on the law of evidence.
Justice Onnoghen therefore called on judges “to do everything possible to nurture, consolidate and develop the country’s nascent democracy”.
“Brother judges, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, our nascent democracy has to be nurtured, consolidated and developed. This duty, no doubt, imposes on all of us severe obligations and conscious efforts.
“The entrenchment of the rule of law which is the cornerstone of any democratic system will only translate to a mere mantra unless the judiciary not only dispenses justice, but is also seen by the citizenry to be doing so fairly, timely and justly.
“A weak judiciary is a recipe for anarchy, impunity, poverty, underdevelopment and instability,” he said.
He remarked that the advent of technological development and the consequent evolution of paperless transactions have permeated every sphere of life, and the legal system is no exception.
“In the event of disputes involving transactions conducted through electronic means, parties are bound to rely on electronic evidence of such transactions.
“The amendment of the Evidence Act, 2011 was intended to provide for the use of such electronic evidence in court proceedings.
“Prior to this amendment, the admissibility of electronic evidence in court proceedings had been shrouded in controversy due to the absence of specific provisions in the previous Act.
“In light of the foregoing, this symposium shall serve to shed light on the grey areas of the Evidence Act, 2011 with particular regard to Section 84 of the Act,” the CJN said.
Justice Onnoghen harped on the need for judges at all levels to appreciate how Section 84 of the Evidence Act is applied and urged judges not to be in a haste in delivering rulings or judgments when issues pertaining to the non-compliance of Section 84 are raised.
The judiciary, he said, must be seen as a bastion of hope and freedom for the common man and an uncompromisingly fair umpire in the eyes of litigants and the general public.
He commended the NJI Administrator, Justice Rosaline Bozimo, for her quality leadership, noting that the institute under her has become much more visible, proficient and proactive.