The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, yesterday, warned lawyers to stop dragging judges before President Muhammadu Buhari.
The CJN, who is due for retirement on November 10, said it was “of great concern and wonder” that even members of the public now route complaints against judicial officers to President Buhari.
He said: “This trend is a distressing indicator that having overcome the evils of interference with the independence of our courts during the military era, some legal practitioners now engage in dragging the judiciary back into the same bandage in this current democracy.
“I deduce that the motivation for this trend lies undoubtedly in their narrow, deplorable self interest and incompetence. However, we must understand that the only way to improve the performance of our courts is through the judiciary itself. “Unlike the days when rule was by decree, it is apt that we educate ourselves on the doctrine of separation of powers and hold strongly to it.”
NJC probing judges over conflicting judgments While flagging-off the 2016/2017 legal year of the Supreme Court, Justice Mohammed, who equally administered oath to 22 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria, further disclosed that the National Judicial Council, NJC, had started probing judges of coordinate jurisdiction involved in the delivery of conflicting judgments. He said the council would at the end of its investigation, wield the big stick against any judge found culpable.
He said: “I believe that just like the purity of gold is determined by its hallmark, a sure measure of the strength of our judiciary is its constitutionally guaranteed independence. “A pivotal part of this independence is the ability of the judiciary to act on complainants or allegations of misconduct against judicial officers.
“The constitution clearly places the power to exercise disciplinary control over judicial officers in the NJC. “Furthermore, in line with the provisions of the Constitution, the Judicial Discipline Regulations 2014 comprehensively sets out the procedure for making a complaint, without undue interference from other arm of government. “I am most dismayed that legal practitioners, who ought to better appreciate the need for the independence of their primary constituency would engage in this misguided practice.
“This dangerous new trend has borne itself out in various complainants ranging from disparaging remarks against Judges of our Superior Courts, to unprecedented, unwarranted and unfortunate personal attacks on judicial officers.” On alleged plot to sideline the age-long practice of nominating the most senior justices of the apex court as CJN-designate, Justice Mohammed warned that such action would “undoubtedly and irreversibly hurt our Justice system”, saying it “must be strenuously resisted.”
He said: “While I would admit that there is no constitutional restriction as to where those to be appointed are selected from, the long held practice, which I daresay had been apolitical, transparent and fair, had been to appoint the most senior justice of the Supreme Court to the office of the CJN.”