Inibehe Effiong, a legal practitioner has criticised Ibrahim Mohammed, the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) for breaking Ramadan Fast With President Muhammadu Buhari.
Late Thursday night, photos of the president and the top jurist winning and dinning alongside other members was released to the public. Our corrspondent gathered the photographs were taken at the breaking of Ramadan Fast, a religious practice among Muslims in the country.
Mr Effiong, a Human Rights Activist, said Mohammed ought not dine with the president because he is a judicial officer who will definitely attend to the election petition challenging the outcome of the exercise that produced Buhari for a second term in office.
The presidential election held earlier in the year is currently being challenged by Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who lost to the Nigerian leader who is expected to begin his second term next week.
Mr Abubakar, a former vice president is currently at the Presidential Election Tribunal praying he been declared winner of the February 23 exercise based on results allegedly gotten from the electronic serves of the electoral body that conducted the election.
Criticising Mohammed over his action, Effiong said public perception and appearance of impropriety were some of the reasons why judicial officers usually live a reclusive life, devoid of serious social contacts.
The activist who stated that Judges, unlike lawyers, are not allowed to associate or mingle with the society they live in, added that the fact that a judicial officer is also the head of the judicial arm of government does not change the ethical standard.
“I know in this country, we wickedly use religion as an alibi to evade responsibility and conceal the truth,” he said in a Facebook post on Friday.
“Breaking Ramadan fast is not an official function, it is not part of the obligations of the office of the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria in any way. It is a personal thing. And if I were a judicial officer, let alone the most senior judicial officer in the country, I would not be breaking fast or paying Christmas visit to the President of Nigeria.
“If I must do it, it will not be to a President who is a notorious violator of the rule of law. If I have to dine with a President who disobeys court orders, it will certain not be at a time when the same President is a litigant before a Tribunal hearing a petition against his election, knowing that the decision of that tribunal will most likely come before me in the Supreme Court. I will think about the perception of right thinking members of the society before dining with that President,” Effiong said.
The lawyer who quoted 2016 Rule 1 of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers to back up his claim noted that Judges are required to avoid social contacts as much as possible. He said the CJN should be the shining example as Justice is rooted in confidence and not in legal technicalities.
The quoted guideline for Judicial Officers is reproduced below:
RULE 1 OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT FOR JUDICIAL OFFICERS OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, 2016 STATES THUS:
Propriety and the appearance of propriety, both professional and personal
1.1 Propriety and the appearance of propriety, both professional and personal, are essential elements of a Judge’s life. As members of the public expect a high standard of conduct from a Judge, he or she must, when in doubt about attending an event or receiving a gift, however small, ask himself or herself the question- “How might this look in the eyes of the public?”
1.2 A Judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the Judge’s activities both in his professional and private life.
1.3 A Judicial Officer should respect and comply with the laws of the land and should conduct himself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary.
1.4 The Judge must be sensitive to the need to avoid contacts that may lead people to speculate that there is a special relationship between him and someone whom the Judge may be tempted to favour in some way in the course of his judicial duties.
1.5 A Judicial Officer must avoid social relationships that are improper or may give rise to an appearance of impropriety or that may cast doubt on the ability of a Judicial Officer to decide cases impartially.