The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Tuesday warned judges in the country to avoid corruption in the discharge of their duties by ensuring that their decisions in political matters are based on merit, laws and not influenced by external forces.
Onnoghen, who gave the charge in Abuja at the opening of the 34th Annual Judges Conference of the Federal High Court in Abuja, urged the judges through their judgments to ensure that democracy is enthroned in the country.
Represented by a Justice of the Supreme Court (JSC), Justice Inyang Okoro, the CJN remarked that with the forthcoming 2019 general elections, courts will be flooded with litigation and as such, Judges as umpire, must stamp out corruption in all ramifications in the cases that will be assigned to them.
The CJN said, “Let me emphasize that this Judges Annual Conference is a stock taking event, especially now that tempo of political activities will be on the increase, we as Judges must do everything to nurture democracy by cleaning up our house and dump the toga of corruption.
“In the discharge of our functions, we must strive to steer the nation to transparency and good governance and stem the tide of bad governance by avoiding external influence in our justice delivery.
“In the next few months, court will be flooded with litigation and as judicial officers, we must resolve all political issues on merit, devoid of external influence”.
The CJN further urged judges to perform their judicial functions in line with the provisions of Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), stressing that Judges must rise up to the coming challenges by cleaning up their houses and dump the toga of corruption.
Reiterating that respect for the rule of law is pivotal to survival of democracy, Onnoghen pleaded with the Judges to carry out their judicial functions expeditiously and stem the tide of bad governance.
In his welcome address, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdul-Kafarati, reiterated his Monday directive stopping judges from granting ex parte orders on political cases.
He advised new judges in particular not to grant ex parte order in other cases unless in very exceptional cases.
He said, “I believe that it is better to hear all sides before a decision is taken and with that there will be less controversy in the adjudication process”. He also called for extra care “in handling these political cases because of their nature”.
“Actions or inactions by a judge no matter how honestly done is capable of misinterpretation. It is therefore necessary and important that we guard our lions in order not to be caught unawares,”he added.
Justice Abdul- Kafarati expressed the hope that the appointment of nine new judges into the Bench of the Federal High Court would help in disposing off over 100,000 pending cases before the court across the country.
The CJ also disclosed that the conference offered unique opportunity for judges to take stock and appraise their judicial functions in the previous year and to resolve knotty legal issues that arose after the previous legal year ceremonies.