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Musdapher and the future of the Judiciary


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Nigeria

Musdapher and the future of the Judiciary

 

Amid the deep crisis rocking the nation’s judiciary, Justice Dahiru Musdapher was on August 29, inaugurated as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, signalling the formal transfer of authority after the termination of the tenure of Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu. President Goodluck Jonathan immediately charged him to restore the dignity of the judiciary, even as he lavished praises on the immediate past CJN.

Within and outside the legal community at the time, disenchantment was rife over sundry acts of the National Judicial Council, which were deemed injudicious and injurious to the credibility and integrity of the nation’s judiciary. The NJC had, to the shock and embarrassment of the nation, repeatedly evaded service when the notice of a suit by the now suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, was forwarded to it. The council rather caused an Acting PCA to be appointed and sworn in.

The outrage across the country was captured in the reaction of the Nigerian Bar Association President, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), who said, “It is a matter of great regret and shame that a judicial organisation of the calibre of the NJC can ride roughshod over the processes of a court of law….If not remedied, we are witnessing the process of a slide into anarchy and lawlessness, which history will record as having been fired up by the judiciary.”

Like the tainted figures at the top echelon, many judicial officers in different judicial divisions and those at the National Judicial Institute have persisted in unethical acts and seriously undermined the justice system. It is on record that Justice Ibrahim N. Buba of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, granted a perpetual injunction restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from investigating, arresting or prosecuting the immediate past Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, in December 2008. Months later, the same judge was transferred to the Federal High Court, Asaba, where he extended the same dubious privileges to erstwhile Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori.

And, in early 2011, as Nigerians were making sacrifices to have free and fair elections, judicial officers all over the country were busy flaunting ex-parte orders all over the country to sabotage the work of the Independent National Electoral Commission. INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, in February, sent a petition to the NJC on the trend, complaining of “hideous pre-emptive obstructions… against the aspirations of Nigerians.”

The National Bureau of Statistics and the EFCC, in a survey funded by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and published in 2010, provided insights into the rot in the judiciary. The report revealed that “Nigerian courts of law receive the biggest bribes from citizens among all institutions in which corruption is rampant.”

As the highest body statutorily empowered to appoint and discipline judicial officers, the NJC must initiate reforms to remedy identified lapses, while ensuring that judges or other personnel indicted in scandals, as was the case at the NJI, are sanctioned. Musdapher and others on that body have to work very hard to redeem their image and that of the sacred institution. Irregularities leading to the emergence of an Acting PCA and the transfer of the Sokoto State Governorship Election Appeal to the Supreme Court (in breach of the Electoral Act, which made the Court Of Appeal the highest appellate body) demand that the powers of the council be whittled down.

Key stakeholders like the NBA deserve some significant role in the NJC. The National Assembly has a task – to amend the relevant portions of the constitution, such as that which concentrates so much power under the CJN so as to give justice dispensation a new lease of life. The survival and stability of our country cannot be guaranteed without a dependable justice system that consistently upholds the sanctity of the Constitution. Citizens need to be reassured at all times that their freedoms, rights and safety will be protected by the judiciary, just as corporate entities want to be sure that business contracts are enforceable and within reasonable time limits. That is why the rot in the judiciary should attract decisive action from the appropriate quarters.

 

 

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Updated 7 Years ago
 

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