The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria on Thursday asked the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen to take up the task of cleansing the judiciary of all forms of corrupt practices, even as they lamented the failure of the judiciary to independently address cases of corruption among its officials.
Speaking at a valedictory session in honour of the outgoing CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, a representative of the body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Thompson Okpoko, said the last six months of the outgoing CJN had been the most turbulent in the history of the nation’s judiciary.
While reiterating that the both lawyers and judges were involved in crises rocking the judiciary, Okpoko said the problems, which are grave and portend danger to the legal profession must be arrested, adding that to restore honour and dignity to the judiciary, the legal profession must pull itself together and work out a situation that would restore confidence in the nation’s judicial system.
In his words, “Our incoming Chief Justice of Nigeria must now face these challenges. The task is enormous and undaunting, but the damage is not beyond repairs.
“The inner bar must look inward, call its erring members to order”, he said and charged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to return to the drawing board and produce realistic guidelines and policies that would ensure that only the best candidates find themselves appointed as judicial officers.
“The profession must turn its back on those who want to ascend to the judicial office through sponsorship of godfathers. We must resist every political interference in the appointment of judges. The NJC needs to be reformed in terms of its composition and its powers and functions,” he advised.
The body of SANs commended the retiring CJN for the honour and dignity he was retiring with, describing him as an, “illustrious Justice” who had spent the greater part of his life in the service of rendering justice to the country.
Eulogising the impressive career of Justice Mohammed, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said that the immediate past CJN, influenced the development of the nation’s judiciary and impacted the country in a profound way.
The NBA President, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud (SAN) who spoke on behalf of the NBA, averred that Justice Mohammed will always be remembered for his many judgments and his peculiar sense of details and strict adherence to the rule of law at all times.
The NBA boss said although the arrest of some judges by operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) goes against the provision of the constitution, there was the need to restore the confidence of Nigerians in the judiciary.
He expressed hope that the NJC will rise to the challenge of restoring the confidence of Nigerians in the judiciary.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) was conspicuously absent from the valedictory session in honour of the retiring Justice Mohammed.
Malami, who was however represented by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Taiwo Abidogun, lauded Justice Mohammed for his immense contributions to the nation’s judiciary.
In his valedictory speech, the retiring CJN disclosed that he initiated and implemented far-reaching reforms that revolutionised the country’s judiciary.
“Our Nation owes the Judiciary a debt of gratitude for standing firm in the face of contrary winds that threatened to blow our Nation’s democracy off course.
“During the run up to the 2015 elections, our Judicial Officers withstood immense pressure in order to guarantee a level playing field and smooth transition of government, which ensured that we were spared a re-enactment of the June 12 saga. In fact, the Courts, thus securing the electoral process, disallowed so many frivolous matters aimed at truncating the electoral process.
“I must particularly commend the Supreme Court for refusing to be intimidated or influenced by any candidate or political party, and I make no apologies for the firm stand that we took in our decisions.
“I am proud to be a part of the Supreme Court which refused to be cowered into truncating the electoral process. I am proud to have headed this noble arm of government and steering it through some very stormy waters.
” I am proud of the Nigerian Judiciary. Indeed, the need to protect the institutions of the Judiciary from undue influence was a key concern of mine during my tenure,” Justice Mohammed said.