Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has directed that more judges and Justices be appointed to panels of the Election Petition Tribunals and Election Appeal Tribunals to ensure speedy disposal of electoral matters.
Onnoghen was also of the opinion that with the increased capacity, the work of judicial officers handling election petitions would be done in a more efficient, effective and judicious manner.
He was speaking yesterday 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 election 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, no matter how innocent they may be portrayed, and assured them that the National Judicial Council (NJC) would wield the big stick of sanctions to any judicial officer found wanting in the discharge of his duties.
According to him, “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 the judiciary and avoid any act that would 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 depends on the judiciary to ensure that the rule of law is strictly complied with in the country.”