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Friday, 14 December 2018

CJN to judges: Expose lawyers acting as conduit for politicians

CJN to judges: Expose lawyers acting as conduit for politicians

Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen

As the 2019 general elections approach, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen yesterday cautioned judges to shun and expose lawyers that are acting as conduit for politicians. He further implored judges to safeguard the independence of the judiciary by sticking to the Code of Conduct and the dictates of the law as the country approaches election year.

The CJN added that it is essential that the justices “prevent any act that will invite the incursion of the Executive arm into the affairs of the judiciary like it did in October 2016.” Justice Onnoghen issued the warning in his address read by Justice Mary Odili at the opening of this year’s Court of Appeal Annual Justices Conference in Abuja.

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His words: “I will, therefore, caution your Lordships to shun unnecessary associations with lawyers who may be acting as conduit for politicians, no matter how innocent they may be portrayed, knowing that the negative costs outweigh the potential benefits that such dangerous liaison may engender, if discovered.”

The CJN also reminded the justices that the National Judicial Council (NJC), the government and, most importantly, the public who reposed a lot of trust in them, are more vigilant than ever in these days of the electronic and social media.

He said it was, therefore, necessary for the judges to guard their integrity and the integrity of the judiciary and avoid acts that will bring them under the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Council as it will not hesitate to wield the big stick of sanctions to any judicial officer who is found wanting in the discharge of his duties. Onnoghen observed that an important reason behind the honesty of judges is the independence of the institution.

“We cannot be threatened by other arms of government in the performance of their duties. Unlike the other arms of government, Your Lordships do not have any superior, whose approval is needed, for you to render justice.” He further stated that judges are only answerable to their conscience and oath of office. “Therefore, the greatest crime they can commit is to give a biased judgement that does not reflect the purport of the law.”

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He implored them to do well by ensuring that all parties, including the losers, can go home safe in the knowledge that whether for good or ill, are satisfied that justice has been done and manifestly seen to have been done.On the panels that would sit on election petitions, Justice Onnoghen said that he has directed that more new judges and justices be appointed to serve on the panels of Election Petition Tribunals and Election Appeals Tribunals to broaden the institutional knowledge base, competence and capacity of judicial officers.

Earlier, in her welcome address, President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, had said the conference would appraise the performance of the court and map out plan for the election year. She enjoined the justices to ensure that as a court, the electioneering rules and guidelines are duly adhered to as the world watches and it is incumbent on the judiciary to ensure that the rule of law is strictly complied with. Justice Bulkachuwa revealed that the Court of Appeal deposed 4,206 appeals and 9,951 motions in the last legal year.

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