The attainment of justice represents one of the enduring promises of constitutional democracy. And the right to a fair trial is perhaps the most fundamental tenet of constitutional democracy and has been recognized as a universal human right.

This promise was again given when the ranks of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory was swelled by the recent appointment of 12 new judges by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.

Among the 12 judges to be sworn Wednesday, July 10, 2024 include the CJN’s daughter-in-law, Ariwoola Oluwakemi Victoria (Oyo State); Hauwa Lawal Gummi (Zamfara State); and Lesley Nkesi Belema Wike (Rivers State), thus fulfilling the recommendation of the National Judicial Council from a total of 86 judicial officers for appointment into federal and state courts across the country.

The task of establishing an efficient judiciary requires the appointment and retention of competent and upright judges who will be challenged and encouraged by the proper balance of discipline in order to remain faithful to the ideals of justice.

Critics have alleged that Nigeria’s Judiciary has been placing emphasis on nepotism or favouritism over competence, but from the calibre of the new appointees, a pathway to future judicial malfeasance and miscarriage of justice has been clearly avoided.

Merit is the watchword of Nigeria’s Judiciary, Therefore, the qualifications of the new appointees is certainly not anchored on who their parents are. They of course could have decided to focus on enjoying their parents wealth but they went through the process and passed.

Government must particularly act in a manner that suggests it is serious about independence of the judiciary. The judiciary, on its part, should continuously discharge its important tasks of fairly and impartially adjudicating disputes, protecting citizens’ rights and checking the excesses of both the executive and the legislature.

But the judiciary cannot fairly and efficiently dispense justice if Nigerians, especially the elites, continue the charade of masquerading as champions of liberty and defenders of judicial independence while they continue to undermine the ability of courts to effectively secure fair trial through undue interference, intimidation and manipulation.

The major obstacles to the administration of justice have been identified to include inadequate funding for judicial institutions, poor and inadequate physical facilities, shortage of and obsolete equipment, shortage of and inadequate utilization of staff, inadequate or total lack of training, poor conditions of service, delay and congestion in courts; dishonest practices and corruption, culturally incompatible laws and procedures and lack of adequate information systems.

The new judges should therefore examine the challenges associated with enforcement of judgments and court orders, the shortage of some infrastructural facilities in the nation’s capital Judiciary, especially courtrooms for Magistrates, point out the reasons behind the non enforceability of some judgments and court orders and the way out, and to analyse the procedures for the enforcement of judgments and orders, in the High Court of the FCT, Abuja and other challenges. 

We thus pray that the new judges will continue to perform their primary duty of hearing cases in different parts of the territory, as demanded by the Constitution.

Our newly sworn FCT Judges should always be aware that their actions in the court will be under scrutiny, exemplify the best and most just virtues, and not succumb to the despicable belief that amassing wealth is more than anything else, including honour and integrity. They should ensure that they are not influenced by political leaders particularly at the state and local levels.

The bottom line though, would be the quality of the justice they would bring to the table and whether it shall make a difference.

This will in the end justify the merit in their appointments.

Dr Jumai Ahmadu, Ag Director, Reform Coordination and Service Improvement Department, FCTA


Related Articles