Consider Citizens’ Interest in Deciding Election Matters, Acting CJN Tells Judges

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Justice Tanko Muhammad

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, yesterday appealed to judges in the country to protect the interest and rights of the citizens as they adjudicate on various matters that may arise from the 2019 general election.

Muhammad made the appeal at the opening ceremony of the 2019 refresher course for judges and Kadis held at the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Abuja.

While noting that respect for fundamental rights of citizens as epitomised by free and fair elections is the hallmarks of true democracy, he enjoined judges whom according to him, are constitutionally vested with powers to protect such rights to sustain the nation’s democracy by doing justice to every case brought before them.

He said: “My Lords, as we are all aware, democracy insists on the respect for the rule of law. Its principles also advocate the independence of the judiciary, the doctrine of Separation of Powers, guarantee of fundamental rights, freedom of expression epitomised by free press and media as well as free and fair elections. These are principles, which we as judicial officers are called to protect.

“Brother judges, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, our nascent democracy has to be nurtured, consolidated and developed even as we will be faced with the arduous task of adjudicating over election petitions as we are in an election year.

“We must be constantly reminded that democracy in itself is nothing if fundamental principles enshrined in the constitution of this country cannot be readily determined in constitutional adjudication by a judiciary manned by upright judicial officers. This is premised on the fact that as the society depends on justice, those who are singularly advantaged to do justice to all manner of persons, must ensure that they themselves are standing erect far away from all manners of injustice.’’

The acting CJN urged the judges to ensure that the interest of the powerful must always be reconciled with those of the voiceless poor. “This is a constitutional function which the courts in this country must continuously pursue. It is heart-warming that our courts have lived up to expectation in perilous times which our dear country has faced in the past and we must continue to do so,” he added.

Justice Muhammad said as judges, they must remain sensitive to the fact that the constitution imposed on them the obligations to interpret the law and adjudicate impartially, urging courts to at all times be prepared to interpret the constitution, relevant statutes and to serve as an arbiter to litigants at minimum costs.

In her welcome address, the Administrator of the NJI, Justice R PI Bozimo, said the theme of this year’s Refresher Course: ‘Repositioning the Judiciary for Better Justice Delivery’, was apt and topical, considering that judicial integrity and the rule of law are the underlying principles of justice and the bedrock of democracy.

She said to achieve this, much energy, skill and experience must be devoted to strengthening the principles of impartiality, diligence, competence, propriety, qualitative justice, strict adherence to the Rule of Law, speedy dispensation of justice and fair conduct of cases with a view to ensuring that justice is not only done but must be seen to be done.