CHIEF Justice of Nigeria and chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Oluwakayode Ariwoola, is launching a major judicial reform soon, Sunday Tribune has exclusively report.
The unveiling of the sweeping reform, expected to reposition the Judiciary, is reportedly billed for the resumption of the new legal year in September. It is not known if the top jurist would be announcing the reform package during the traditional ceremony that heralds every new legal year.
A top system source told Sunday Tribune that the Oyo-born judicial officer is currently putting the reform package together, taking into consideration, inputs from his brother justices, the Bar, prominent senior lawyers, top system operators and other critical stakeholders.
Justices of the Supreme Court have also been broken into committees to superintend an ongoing internal reform in the apex court.
The committees are headed by the senior justices of the court, Sunday Tribune has learnt. Each committee has four members, making a total of three committees for the 12 Justices of the court, it was learnt.
The CJN was said to have recused himself from direct participation in the internal cleansing exercise to give his colleagues unfettered access to all the activities of the court.
Senior administrative officers of the court have also been reportedly directed by the CJN to open all financial books of the court to the Justices.
This move has been applauded by insiders and major stakeholders as the right step at re-injecting accountability and probity into the system after the financial controversies that trailed the exit of his predecessor-in-office, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad.
While Sunday Tribune is yet to obtain the details, it was learnt that the focus of the reform package is mainly to make courts in the country more effective and functional, as a way of inspiring a revival of populace confidence in the Judiciary.
The Bench currently scores low with the citizenry, but the system source assured that the coming reform would take care of most of the issues leading to the poor rating of the Judiciary.
“He is focused on strengthening the courts and he is working on the reform package, to achieve that. He knows what he wants to achieve with the position he occupies. Suggestions have been made to him and he is working on them. By the time the new legal year resumes, the reform should be out” the system leader told Sunday Tribune.
Meanwhile, the National Judicial Council (NJC) has resumed the monitoring of judges handling alleged corruption cases around the country. The exercise is being undertaken by a special committee known as Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee, (CONTRIMCO).
The committee was put in place by former Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen in November 2017 as an anticorruption weapon of the Bench against errant judges handling alleged corruption cases. The committee was christened by the media as looters’ trial panel.
The Justice Suleiman Galadima-led committee was in limbo for the three years that Justice Tanko was in office.
The new leadership has now reactivated it. On Thursday, the committee rounded off a tour of five South-West states, excluding Lagos State which it had earlier visited. This comes as the leadership of the Court of Appeal is launching an all-out war against purveyors of what is deemed as fake news within the system.
Media materials in recent times have targeted the leadership of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem.
A senior administrative staff of the court told Sunday Tribune that the attacks have been discovered to seek a termination of her headship of the court.
She had a tough time landing the job, despite being the most senior justice of the intermediate court when the position became vacant in March 2020. Fiery social critic and former military governor of Kaduna State, Colonel Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, in a blistering open letter dated May 31, 2020 to President Buhari, noted the move to bypass Justice Dongban-Mensem for a Northern Muslim.
President Buhari eventually nominated her in substantive capacity, after widespread criticism of the delay. Mensem is a Christian from the North-Central zone and a group within the Judiciary is reportedly seeking a regime change at the court to bring a Muslim in.
She is accused of stalling overseas travel for justices of the court during the COVID pandemic. A similar accusation, among others, terminated Tanko’s reign as CJN.