Adegboruwa Asks FG to Declare State of Emergency in Judiciary

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· Canvasses overhauling of entire police structure

Gboyega Akinsanmi

A human rights lawyer, Mr. Ebun Adegboruwa, yesterday backed the claim of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad that the judiciary in the country was not truly independent.

Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), called on the federal government to declare a state of emergency in the judiciary with a mandate to make it truly independent.

He canvassed the position in a response to THISDAY inquiry noting that the best way “to describe the judiciary is to say that judges are weeping and they are weeping very profusely.”

The CJN had warned governments at all levels to allow the judiciary to enjoy its independence without undue interference, noting that the judiciary would never be subservient to anybody.

He had at the inauguration of 38 new SANs maintained that the judiciary under his watch will uphold the tenets of the constitution as the supreme law of the land

He had lamented that despite the fact that the 1999 Constitution provided for separation of powers and independence of the three arms of government, he continued to go cap in hand to beg for funds to run the judiciary, a situation he said had impacted negatively on the administration of justice in the country.

He said it was time for the judiciary to take its destiny in its hand, insisting that the judiciary would borrow “a leaf from other climes where things are done rightly so that we do not keep repeating the same mistake and expect to make progress in our administration of justice.”

Backing CJN’s claim, Adegboruwa acknowledged that the judiciary “is not independent given that judges have to go cap in hand to the executive, for fund. He who pays the piper must surely dictate the tune.”

Right from the NBA Conference, the senior advocate noted that the CJN “has not ceased to tell all those who want to hear that the judiciary is underfunded and neglected.”

He lamented that underfunding and undue interference “is at the core of the failure of our judicial system, especially at the level of the judiciary of the states, where things are worse. We should declare a state of emergency in the judiciary.”

He, however, observed that the challenges did not start with the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. But having regard to the clear words of covenant expressed in the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress (APC), I had expected much more, from that party, to the judicial arm of government.

“You just look at the lives of most of the judges, they are old, thoroughly overused and worn out. You hardly can see a retired judge who is not battling with one health issue or the other, because of their workload and unfriendly working environment.

“Or how else would you explain that in 2019, judges, even up to the Supreme Court, still write proceedings in long hand and they deliver rulings and judgments in long hand.

“Then you check the welfare of judicial officers, it is so very poor. In Lagos State, the last time the government reviewed the salary of judges was in 2007. That is about twelve years ago.

“What it means is that judges in Lagos State have been on the same salary scale for the past twelve years. How can you expect such a person to function optimally?

“If there is a major problem in that sector of our national life or there are very serious issues of underfunding and interference plaguing the judiciary, these issues will eventually trickle down to the other sectors of Nigeria, our polity, economic development, our spiritual life, marriages and homes, schools, health care, etc.

“This is because the judiciary is the life wire of any nation, a cord that holds together society. We cannot afford to toy with the judiciary the way we are doing presently.

“The reasons I expect so much for the judiciary from the APC government is because it is a beneficiary of judicial interventions. Secondly, it stated a policy for judicial reforms in its manifesto, which the party seem to have forgotten completely.”

He, also, clarified the power of the Police Service Commission (PSC) under the section 153 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to recruit police officers independent of the Nigeria Police.

He explained that the PSC was created under section 153 of the Constitution as an independent agency to deal all issues affecting the police. There has been constant crisis between successive Inspectors-General of Police and the Police Service Commission.

According to him, this is one of the constitutional crisis that I mentioned to you earlier. Looking at it critically, I believe the letter from the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) must have been prompted from the Presidency. In that regard, it is in order.

He, therefore, called for an urgent overhauling of the entire police structure, noting that the welfare of the average policeman “is too poor, giving the huge expectations that we have placed on that institution, in terms of crime prevention and detection.

“There should be massive recruitment and training for the police in order to minimize the activities of the terrorists who have devised the means of mingling with civilians or are relocating to other parts of the country away from the bombardments from the security forces.”