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Awomolo wants President’s powers to appoint CJN in acting capacity abolished

As Osibanjo tasks judiciary on corruption fight

A member of the inner Bar, Chief Adegboyegha Awomolo, on Tuesday, advocated the repeal of Sections 231 and 271 of the 1999 Constitution, which gives the executive arm of government the power to appoint Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and chief judges of state in an acting capacity, so as to give the judiciary its full autonomy.

Awomolo made this call in a paper entitled: “Imperative of judicial reforms in ensuring good governance and accountability in Nigeria,” which he delivered at the 2016 Fellows’ lecture and conferment of honorary fellowship of the Nigerian Institute of Advance legal studies (NIALS), in Abuja, on Tuesday.

President Muhammadu Buhari appointed the present CJN, Justice Samuel Walter Onnoghen, in acting capacity.

Chief Awomolo said the provisions threatened the independence of the judiciary and subjected the judicial arm of the government to the control of the executive.

“If the approval of the executive is required to appoint the heads of the state houses of assembly and the National Assembly, I am sure many of the houses of assembly will not have speakers.

“If the appointment of the leadership of the National Assembly is subject to the executive, I am sure the Senate and the House of Representatives will not have leaders today,” he said.

Chief Awomolo, who was the guest speaker at the event, said activities of the Professor Itse Sagey-led presidential committee against corruption constituted an interference of the independence of the judiciary, just as it noted that it was not right for the committee to have interface with judicial officers, to the extent of identifying judges that had the integrity to sit on criminal/corruption matters.

The function, he said, belonged to the National Judicial Council (NJC).

“There is no need for the committee to gather judges of the Federal High Court together and tell them on how to go about the functions of their office, because the committee is an agent of the executive arm of the government,” Awomolo said.

However, the Executive Secretary of the committee, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, said it did not teleguide the judiciary.

He also denied that judges were being tutored on how to do their work.

In his lecture, Awomolo also called for the modification of the process of disciplining judicial officers.

“There should be a permanent committee or tribunal which shall be independent of the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and which shall be empowered to investigate allegations against judicial officers.

“This arrangement will afford opportunity for fair hearing as the committee or tribunal will be in charge of investigation while the final decision will be taken by the NJC,” he said.

In his speech, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said both the judiciary and the legal profession should take the lead in eradicating corruption within their ranks.

The vice president said members of the legal profession owed the country a duty of ensuring the success of the administration of criminal justice system.

“The system has men and women of integrity but that the few bad ones end up defiling the whole system.

“The legal profession is shy to call itself to order. We watch the decay and gradual collapse of our cherished institution,” he said.

The vice president said the judiciary was challenged by corruptio, adding that the responsibility was on all lawyers to make sure that the institution was not allowed to collapse.