AS the Federal Government arraigned a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta before a Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday for corruption, the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has asked judges of the lower courts to shun corrupt practices in order to align with the anti-corruption strides of the present administration.
In a keynote address he delivered at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Conference for all judges of the lower courts organised by the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Abuja, Onnoghen said judges, as impartial arbiters, must uphold the rule of law, eliminate unnecessary delays and to dispense justice without fear or favour to both parties in accordance with the law.
The Acting CJN said the primary role of judges of the lower courts is to settle disputes in accordance with the provisions of the rule of law, adding that, “The performance of this onerous task depends on strict adherence to rule of law, the Code of Conduct for judicial officers, access to justice, integrity and independence of judiciary.”
Onnoghen identified inadequate funding and corrupt practices as some of the major challenges hindering the smooth administration of justice and exposes the judiciary to a lot of criticisms.
According to him, administration of justice is crucial to the effective running and stability of a democratic society as well as the peaceful coexistence of its citizens, without which, he said, the society will degenerate into anarchy.
While commending the judiciary for its innovative strides in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), he said ICT improves access to justice, promotes the efficiency of judicial officers and their support staff among others.
“It is pertinent to note that an independent, strong, respectable and responsible judiciary is indispensable to the administration of justice and to have such an institution, we must adhere to the oath of office and the code of conduct for judicial officers,” Onnoghen stated.
Earlier in her speech, NJI administrator, Justice Roseline Bozimo, said if the lower courts must serve as veritable instruments for justice and peace in a democratic society, it must continually demonstrate deep foresight for productivity, exceptional capacity and remarkable courage in the defence of constitutionally guaranteed individual and institutional rights.
She said the nation’s judiciary has witnessed its low and high moments in the last 16 years of democratic rules, adding that with the developments, it has shown that the judiciary would rather uphold the rule of substantial justice rather than technicalities of law.
Justice Bozimo said the theme of the conference, “The lower courts as veritable instruments for justice and peace in a democratic society” and its sub-topics are tailored towards enlightening and promoting efficient justice delivery in the country.
She said the conference is an avenue for the judges to update their skills and knowledge, thereby improving their competence and performance in the discharge of their statutory functions.