Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday charged the judiciary to do its best possible to fight against real and perceived corrupt practices within the judicial system.
The President gave the charge in Abuja while opening the 2015 All Nigerian Judges’ Conference with the theme: `The Judiciary as a Veritable Instrument for Sustaining Democracy in Nigeria’.
Represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the President said that the judiciary should also improve its capacity to act independently, courageously, and tirelessly.
(Osinbajo – representing Buhari )
“May I most especially urge that the Nigerian judiciary must do all that is possible to fight against the perception and the reality of growing judicial corruption.
“As an institution dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights, the judiciary must go the extra mile to sanitise itself and improve its capacity to act independently, courageously and tirelessly.
“Further on the point of negative perception, there is both local and international dissatisfaction of the long delays in the trial process.
“In the past few years this has become especially so for high profile cases of corruption, especially where they involve serving or former political office holders.’’
Buhari said that corruption, in whatever form transferred from public, coffered to private pockets resources needed for the provision of social and economic justice to the people.
He noted that government’s attempts to recover loots were often met with delayed tactics by lawyers in the trial process, thus denying the state and the accused person the opportunity of judicial verdict.
According to him such attitude must not continue.
He said that the reasons for such delays or outright inaction were at times beyond the courts and in several cases “consequences of shoddy investigation, out-moded rules of procedure, poor prosecution or unprofessional practices of counsel’’.
He said that judicial reform must take into consideration the clean-up of the systems and processes in all the courts handling cases involving the poor to portray the courts as humane and efficient.
Buhari said that the ability to enforce contractual obligations and resolve disputes would inform the decision of potential local and international investors about where to invest on.
“Delay in judicial processes has caused the economy dearly in terms of much needed investment as investors prefer other jurisdictions where the progress of court cases is much more predictable and in accordance with the rule of law,’’ he said.
According to him, this is a big disincentive to business as judicial delays have damaged the international reputation of the country’s judiciary.
The President, who said that the judiciary had performed well in the past, also advised people to always bear in mind that the administration of justice is the foundation of genuine democracy.
Buhari observed that Nigeria’s Supreme Court was one of the busiest in the world, but said that the court should be allowed to focus on key constitutional issues.
He said that it was not necessary to appeal interlocutory matters up to the Supreme Court.
The President also advised judges to be courageous and not to hesitate in sanctioning lawyers and litigants, who deliberately delayed trials.
He also enjoined the judiciary to revisit previous reform panels of its experts help improve the legal practice.
Buhari said the present administration is committed to the financial independence of the judiciary in accordance with extant laws and must be treated fairly as the executive and the legislative.
He, however, observed that judicial transparency and accountability in the use of funds, procurement, and auditing should be sacrosanct.
The President said that government must be forward-looking in providing for the comfort of the judges.
He expressed the hope that deliberations at the conference would lift the country out of many of the social problems it is experiencing. (NAN)