Worried by public complaints and dwindling public confidence in the ability of the National Judicial Council (NJC) to deliver justice, the Council, on Monday, launched National Judicial Policy that would guide and provide principles that would ensure an efficient, effective and transparent judicial system in the country.
The policy that was launched by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and chairman of the NJC, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, would guide and provide principles and guidelines for tackling and dealing with issues and providing actions for effective and durable solutions to the problems facing the nation’s judiciary.
The objective of the National Judicial Policy, according to the former chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola, who gave the synopsis, was to promote and ensure the highest possible standard of qualitative justice delivery.
The policy also emphasises the need to strengthen existing judicial discipline procedures to ensure accessibility by complainants; transparency and fairness in the process, both to the judges and to the complainants, in line with international best practices.
The new policy set to bar publications of allegations of misconduct levelled against judges and employees of the judiciary as it stated that, “It shall be the policy of the judiciary on complaints that allegations of misconduct against judicial officers or employees of the judiciary shall not be leaked or published in the media.”
Section 2.2.4 to Section 2.2.9 of the new National Judicial Policy reads, “Where complaints on allegations against judicial officers and court employees are submitted for investigation, the complainant or complainants shall be made to give an undertaking not to do anything to prejudice investigation or actions that may be taken.
“The institutions of the judiciary concerned with investigation and/or implementation of decisions taken on such complaints shall be obliged to cease further action where such complaints are leaked or discussed in the media.
“Where such a leakage is occasioned after the submission of a complaint, then all investigations on the complaints shall be suspended, the leakage investigated and if such leakage is from the complainant on through other parties known to such a complainant, such a complaint should be discarded.
“Where such leakage is occasioned prior to the presentation of the complaint and the source of the leakage is found to be the complainant or through other parties known to and connected with the complainant, then such complaint shall not be accepted, upon submission, by the appropriate disciplinary body.
“Upon the conclusion of any investigation, the judicial disciplinary bodies may allow public disclosure of their findings, subject to following the proper channels for such disclosure.”
The policy also barred judges and judicial officers from accepting gifts from other arms of government in the conduct of their official functions.
Section 2(3)(2) of the new policy states that, “The code of conduct for judicial officers and code of conduct for court employees, with the amendment discouraging acceptance of gifts from other arms of government, should be such as would be adequate. Compliance with their provisions shall be mandatory.”
While launching the policy at the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Abuja, the CJN said the policy, which, he said, was a meticulous, considered and well-drafted response to calls for the judiciary to reform and harmonise its standards, would herald a steady transformation of country’s judiciary.
He said, “The National Judicial Policy is borne out of the realisation that the Nigerian Judiciary had been adversely affected by the absence of a clear, coordinated policy framework that defines its core morals, values, objects and aspirations. Such concerns have bordered upon the need to make qualitative and integrity-driven dispensation of justice, which is transparent, honest and trustworthy, the hallmark of our transformed Judiciary.”
According to Justice Mohammed, the policy would provide clear guidelines that embrace the broad thematic areas of the appointment, discipline, code of conduct, education, training and performance of judges, access to justice, case flow management, judicial administration and court management, transparency and anti-corruption, judicial independence, collaboration and public enlightenment.
“Corruption has serious implications for both the rule of law and access to justice, and must be fought both institutionally and individually. This is why the National Judicial Policy contains clear provisions restating the judiciary’s commitment to transparency and accountability,” he added.