Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has expressed strong doubts that the current hierarchy of the nation’s judiciary can resolve the deep seated problems of systematic corruption and lack of professionalism by the court system in Nigeria.
The group has therefore suggested what it calls “fundamental overhaul of the justice sector which should begin with the ‘sacrificial’ and immediate resignation of the current Chief Justice of Nigeria Tanko Muhammad to make way for the emergence of a fresh head for the judiciary free from all allegations and encumbrances of executive interferences occasioning his initial emergence.
In a statement by the national Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said her suggestion on the best way to sanitize the filthy court system in Nigeria is borne out of patriotic zeal and the sincere commitment of our organization to provide practical guide to the hierarchy of the judiciary since the Chief Justice of Nigeria has just announced his decision to sanction judges abusing ex-parte injunctions which on it’s own merit is a worthy cause.
HURIWA said it premised her doubts about the end to which the current effort by the CJN will achieve on the basis that it is apparently hypocritical for the current head of the court system in Nigeria to want to sanction Chief judges of states for abusing court processes and awarding frivolous ex-parte orders when in fact there is still the allegations that President Muhammadu Buhari used ex-parte order granted by a quasi- judicial forum (CODE OF CONDUCT TRIBUNAL) to illegally oust the then substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria in clear breach of the Constitutional provisions that recognizes the National Judicial Council as the only body allowed to oust a sitting CJN.
“Without sounding immodest or disrespectful, we think that although the move to sanction erring Chief Judges of States for bringing indignity to the sanctity of the nation’s court system is salutary, but we suggest that since the holder of the office of the CJN who allegedly came in Via a controversial ex-parte order not even made by a Court mentioned anywhere in section 6 of the constitution but by a body appointed by the Executive arm of government and supervised by a subordinate of President Muhammadu Buhari who is his Secretary to the government of the Federation, it may be just and timely to plead withthe honourable the CJN to stand down so the judiciary can have a fresh start since Mr. President Muhammadu Buhari relied on an ex parte order to announce the current CJN as the then acting CJN and then proceeded to unseat the then substantive CJN.”
HURIWA maintained for the records that the controversial suspension of the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, by President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to be sufficiently justified since the then CJN was removed extra legally and by self help measures.
HURIWA recalled that in removing the then CJN Honourable Mr Justice Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari, the President claimed he acted based on a Code of Conduct Tribunal order even as it is clear like the moonlight that the president has no such powers to remove a Chief Justice of Nigeria from office.
HURIWA stated that Section 292 of the Nigerian constitution deals with the removal of some public officials including the CJN. The section does not distinguish temporary removal (suspension) from a permanent removal (sack) just as the GrundNorm stated as follows: “A judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement except in the following circumstances – (a) in the case of –
“Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Grand Kadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and President, Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, by the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.”
(ii) Chief Judge of a State, Grand Kadi of a Sharia Court of Appeal or President of a Customary Court of Appeal of a State, by the Governor acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly of the State,
Praying that he be so removed for his inability to discharge the functions of his office or appointment (whether arising from infirmity of mind or of body) or for misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct;
(b) in any case, other than those to which paragraph (a) of this subsection applies, by the President or, as the case may be, the Governor acting on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council that the judicial officer be so removed for his inability to discharge the functions of his office or appointment (whether arising from infirmity of mind or of body) or for misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct.”
HURIWA said that in other words, a substantive CJN can only be removed from office by the president after at least two-thirds majority members of the Senate support such a move. No such matter was ever debated in the Senate till date.
HURIWA recalled that three State Chief Judges (CJs) will appear before the National Judicial Council (NJC) to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for alleged issuance of conflicting court orders. The decision to investigate the judges was taken by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, after a meeting with seven Heads of Courts on Monday in Abuja.
The CJN, Muhammad Tanko had last week Monday invited some CJs to explain the rationale behind the issuance of contradictory court orders and indiscriminate injunctions by judges in their jurisdictions. The invitation was sequel to a report by a lot of media houses on certain worrisome restraining orders against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and some contestants in the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State, as well as the leaderships of the major political parties in the country.
HURIWA recalled that in a statement by the NJC’s Director of Information, Mr Soji Oye, disclosed that the CJN, after a marathon meeting with the Heads of Courts, which lasted for over six hours, decided to use the three judges as warning to others. Although, disciplinary actions are usually taken against an erring judicial officer after investigation based on petition from members of the public, in this instance, the NJC is on its own investigating the three judges.
HURIWA however believes that the best way to get it right and check cases of indiscipline in the judiciary is for the hierarchy at the moment to resign honourably and allow for the emergence of a successor whose appointment will not be muddied up politically just as the Rights group said fighting judicial rot is the best thing to do to sustain constitutional democracy. But it said WHATEVER IS WORTH DOING AT ALL MUST BE SEEN TO HAVE BEEN DONE TRANSPARENTLY AND IN AN ACCOUNTABLE FORMAT.