Alex Enumah Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has directed that more Judges be appointed to panels of the Election Petition Tribunals and Election Appeals Tribunals, so as to ensure the speedy disposal of electoral matters.
Onnoghen was also of the opinion that with the increased capacity, the work of judicial officers handling election petitions will be done in a more efficient, effective and judicious manner.
He was speaking Thursday while declaring open this year’s annual conference of Justices of the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
Justice Onnoghen, who was represented at the occasion by a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Mary Peter-Odili said, the 2019 general elections presents several challenges for all concerned, including the judiciary.
The CJN then urged the Justices to be on guard so as not to fall prey to the ambitions of politicians who do not care about what may befall the hapless judicial officer if found wanting in any way because of his association with politicians.
He also warned the participants against unnecessary association with lawyers who may be acting as conduits for politicians and threatened that the National Judicial Council (NJC) will sanctions any judicial officer found wanting in the discharge of his duties.
In his words, “We cannot be threatened by other arms of government in the performance of our duties. Unlike other arms of government, your Lordships do not have a superior, whose approval is needed for you to render Justice.”
He then urged the Justices to safeguard the independence of the judiciary and avoid any act that will invite the incursion of the executive into the affairs of the judiciary.
In her speech, the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, said the conference, with the theme, “The new frontiers for judiciary in democracy “provides the opportunity to take stock of the accomplishment of the court and to also look forward to other areas for improvement.
“As judicial watch guards, it is our role to ensure that as a court, the electioneering rules and guidelines are duly adhered to as the world watches and depend on the judiciary to ensure that the rule of law is strictly complied with in the country.
She said the Appeal Court had, in this year disposed of 4,206 judgments and 9,951 motions, pointing out that, “Appeals no longer lapse as we have taken every necessary precaution to tidy up the court”.