NJC’s Decision Is To Preserve Judiciary’s Independence – CJN

CJN, Recession, Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, judiciaryThe Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, has‎ again reaffirmed the position of the National Judicial Council on the fight against corruption.

He insisted that any judicial officer that is standing trial for alleged charges of corruption will cease to perform judicial functions until such an officer establishes his or her innocence.

Justice Mohammed disclosed this in Abuja during the swearing-in ceremony of the newly appointed justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Amina Augie and Justice Ejembi Eko.

The CJN said that it is expedient for judicial officers standing trial to be given ample time to clear their name.

The Chief Justice, while urging the newly appointed justices to be firm and honest in the discharge of their judicial functions, said that they were coming in at a time the judiciary is facing lots of challenges.

However, he expressed optimism that they would adhere strictly to their oath of allegiance to dispense justice without fear or favour.

“A common trend that runs through all judiciaries is that judicial officers are traditionally accorded the highest dignity and respect by all.

“This is because justice is rooted in confidence and where confidence in our judges is undermined and independence eroded, it is the nation that ultimately suffers most while true democracy is fatally undermined.

“Certainly, the decision of the National Judicial Council at its last meeting reflects our desire to preserve this independence. Hence, we proclaimed to the world that any judicial officer that is standing trial will cease to perform judicial functions.

“The council took this stand following communications it received from the AGF and Minister of Justice that he was embarking on the prosecution of the affected judicial officers for the offences disclosed against them from the evidence on the ground,” he said.

Corrupt Judges: Blame FG, Governors, CJN Tells SERAP

CJN, Recession, Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, judiciaryThe Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mahmud Mohammed, has said that the “the failure on the part of the Executive Arm of Government to act upon recommendations by the National Judicial Council (NJC) cannot be blamed upon the NJC”.

Justice Mohammed made the statement in a letter dated 26 October 2016 and sent to Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

The letter by a spokesman for the CJN, H. S. Sa’eed was in response to SERAP’s request to Justice Mohammed that he should, as the Chairman of the NJC to “take over from the Department of State Service (DSS) the cases of all the seven judges released by the DSS and refer the cases of those judges to anticorruption agencies for conclusion of investigation and prompt prosecution”.

But the CJN in reaction told SERAP that, “certainly, you will agree with me that where there are clear constitutional provisions relating to the power of any individual, institution or Arm of Government, then it cannot deviate nor exceed such powers as this will be unlawful”.

The letter by the CJN read: “While restating the willingness of the NJC to act upon any petition as well as commitment of the Nigerian judiciary to the fight against corruption, his Lordship opines that any significant involvement in the fight against corruption will be upon a similar commitment of the Prosecutorial Agencies to actively prosecute their cases expeditiously when information about same is received.

“It is necessary to restate that the NJC is a creation of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) being established under Section 153 with its mandate clearly set out in Para 21, Part One of the Third Schedule to the Constitution. This provision clearly stipulates at Para 21(b) and (d) that the Council may only ‘recommend’ to the President and the Governors, the removal from office of Judicial Officers and to exercise disciplinary control over such Judicial Officers, which in effect is the extent of its power to discipline. Hence, the Council cannot, suo moto dismiss any Judicial Officer.

“The NJC can also neither ‘hand over corrupt judges to law enforcement agencies for prosecution nor recover proceeds of corruption, as you have suggested. It can merely recommend to act upon its findings, as it has always done.

“However, in exercise of its constitutional mandate, the NJC has enacted the Judicial Discipline Regulations, 2014 in order to ensure that petitions are received, investigated and addressed as appropriate. As SERAP’s own Report attests, 64 Judicial Officers have been disciplined within five years even preceding the institution of the new guidelines. Any failure on the part of the Executive Arm of Government to act upon such recommendations cannot therefore be blamed upon the NJC.

“With due consideration to the contents of your letter, I am directed to acknowledge and address the concerns which SERAP have raised, which may reflect the wider opinion held by some Nigerians. While his Lordship doubtless appreciate SERAP’s concern for the incidence of corruption in the judiciary, it is indeed erroneous to conclude that the NJC has ‘felt satisfied with applying only civil sanctions and have not deemed it fit to hand over corrupt judges to law enforcement agencies for prosecution nor recover proceeds of corruption’, as insinuated in your letter under reference.

“To be sure, every citizen of Nigeria inclusive of Judicial Officers, are entitled to the protection of the law and a key provision of the Constitution is the presumption of innocence, as enshrined in Section 36(5) of the Constitution (as amended). I must also remind us that the Seven Judges like all other persons are entitled to a fair hearing as stipulated in Section 36 of the Constitution. As such, it would be presumptive and indeed preemptive to sanction the said judges without exhausting the proper procedure for their removal.”

“As a valuable member of the society, the Hon. CJN is certainly delighted with SERAP’s dedication to justice, fairness and justness. His Lordship also wishes to emphasize that it is indeed our collective responsibility to tackle any perceived challenges facing the Nigerian judiciary.”

“Indeed, with the support of well-meaning and eminent Nigerians such as members of SERAP, giant strides will be made towards reaching the goal of a transparent, fair and equitable system of justice. The Hon. CJN wishes you the best in your future endeavor as SERAP strives to support and entrench good governance in Nigeria”.

SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, had in a letter written to the NJC on October 11 expressed serious concern that “the NJC has for many years failed to appropriately deal with several cases of corrupt judges by failing to refer those cases to the EFCC and ICPC for prosecution. Many of these suspected corrupt judges are still alive and their cases should be promptly referred to the anti-corruption agencies. The NJC under your leadership should seize the opportunity of the just released 7 judges to comprehensively address corruption in the judiciary”.

SERAP said that it believed that “the NJC is in the best position to tackle corruption within the judiciary, and to ensure the application of appropriate disciplinary and legal measures in the cases of the released seven judges and other judges suspected of engaging in corruption”.

Don’t Lose Faith In Judiciary, CJN Urges Nigerians

CJN, Recession, Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, judiciaryThe Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, has called on Nigerians not to lose faith and confidence in the Nigerian judiciary.

The CJN reiterated that despite the current misunderstanding between the National Judicial Council and the Directorate of the State Services (DSS), the Judiciary still continues to maintain cordial relations with the other arms of government.

Justice Mohammed said that the call by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Mahmoud to suspend the judges who are currently under investigation, was unnecessary and hasty.

He pointed out that the said judicial officers are still being investigated by the DSS.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria added that the DSS is yet to forward any complaint or any official communication regarding the seven judges to the National Judicial Council.

However, some of the affected judges have already been investigated by the NJC, which found some culpable and recommended their removal from office by dismissal or retirement to the President.

He also stated in clear terms that the ‘sting’ operations carried out by the DSS in October 2016 was certainly an assault on the independence of the Nigerian Judiciary even though, the Judiciary fully supports the anti-corruption drive.

CJN Advocates Judiciary, Financial Sector Partnership To End Nigeria’s Recession

CJN, Recession, NigeriaThe Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mahmud Mohammed, has called for collaboration between the judiciary and the financial sector to resolve the nation’s economic challenges.

Justice Mohammed made the call when he announced that the judiciary was developing a multi-track justice delivery system that embraces “alternative dispute resolution”.

He made the announcement at a seminar for judges organised by the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

The Chief Justice believed that the judiciary could step up its processes by collaborating with the financial sector.

He stated that one way of delivering speedy and amicable justice was the alternative dispute resolution.

Justice Mohammed was optimistic that the banking sector would embrace initiative for an efficient and effective collaboration with the judiciary.

The Judges’ Sensitisation Seminar was attended by High Court judges across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

The Managing Director of NDIC, Umaru Ibrahim, informed the gathering that the meeting was convened to create a synergy between the judicial officers and the financial sector, especially in the light of Nigeria’s economic recession.

Judicial Council Recommends Retirement Of Two Judges As Sanction

Mahmud-Mohammed suspends JudgesThe National Judicial Council (NJC), under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, has recommended the compulsory retirement of two judges from office.

A statement by a spokesman for the NJC, Soji Oye, said recommendations were given for the immediate retirement of Justice Gbaja-Biamila of Lagos State High Court pursuant to findings by the council on allegations contained in petitions written against him by Mr Candide Johnson.

Mr Johnson had accused him of delivering judgment 22 months after written addresses were adopted which the council said was contrary to the constitutional provisions that judgments should be delivered within a period of 90 days.

The Council also said Justice Gbaja-Biamila had failed to publish a copy of a judgment he delivered on 24 December, 2013 until after 40 days, contrary to the provision of the Constitution which required that a copy of the Judgment of a Superior Court of Record be given to Parties in the case within seven days of delivery.

Recommendation was also given for the compulsory retirement of Justice Idris Evuti of the Niger State High Court for allegedly falsifying his date of birth.

The Council made the recommendation after it considered a petition written by Mohammed Eggun against Justices Evuti and another Tanko Yusuf of the High Court of Niger State on falsification of their dates of birth.

He alleged that Justice Evuti falsified his age from 15 September, 1950 to 10 April, 1953 and Justice Yusuf falsified his age from 27 June, 1950 to 27 June, 1951.

A Fact Finding Committee set-up by the Council found from the records made available to it that Justice Evuti used three different dates of birth over the years as 15 September, 1950, 10 April, 1953 and 1 April, 1953 and therefore recommended his compulsory retirement with immediate effect.

“Apart from the recommendation for compulsory retirement of Justice Evuti, Council recommended to the Government of Niger State to deduct all salaries received by him from September, 2015 till date from his gratuity and remit same to the National Judicial Council that pays salaries of all Judicial Officers in the Federation,” the statement read.

The Council did not recommend the compulsory retirement of Justice Usman because it had already accepted his retirement with effect from 1 March, 2016.

However, Council decided to write to the Government of Niger State, to deduct from the gratuity the salaries received by him from June 2015 when His Lordship should have retired from the Bench.

CJN Lashes Out At Critics Of Judicial Officers

JudiciaryThe Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mahmud Mohammed, has referred to those calling the judicial officers corrupt as being inconsiderate and ignorant of how the judiciary operates.

Justice Mohammed, who is retiring from the judiciary after 38 years of service made the observation on Wednesday in Abuja while speaking at a special valedictory session held in his honour.

According to the CJN, such criticisms are made without due considerations of the law and the system of government in Nigeria.

He said that the judiciary is duty bound to act and would continue to act in accordance with the dictates of the law as it stands and not as its critics would want it to be.

Lending his voice, to the  position of the CJN, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Augustine Alegeh, also condemned in strong terms, the criticism of the Nigerian judiciary.

The NBA President also described the act as ‘a deliberate attempt to disparage the judiciary’.

Chief Justice Advocates Legal And Institutional Reforms

Chief Justice of NigeriaThe Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, has called for legal and institutional reforms to combat financial and cybercrimes.

Justice Mohammed made the call on Tuesday at the annual conference on ‘Financial Fraud, Cybercrime and Cross Border Crimes’ held in Abuja.

He said that any inaction to reform the judicial system could endanger Nigeria’s future growth and stability.

However, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said that more anti-corruption bills would soon be forwarded to the National Assembly.

On his part, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, urged the National Assembly to pass into law, the proceeds of corruption bill which he said would speed up the reparation of stolen assets to Nigeria.

Both representatives from the financial institutions and the Nigeria judicial system were present at the conference to find a common solution to the problem of financial and cybercrimes.

Chief Justice Inaugurates Election Tribunals

Voter-register-INEC-2015-electionThe Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mahmud Mohammed, has inaugurated the 2015 election tribunals for the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

While calling on the various panels to ensure that justice is done to any case before them in line with the law, the Chief Justice warned that the National Judicial Council would not spare anyone found wanting, in the cause of his duties.

He urged the election tribunals members not to allow any political party or politician to derail the task assigned to them.

Channels Television’s correspondent, Amaka Okafor, reports that over 200 judicial officers, comprising of justices of the appellate court, the High Courts and Chief Magistrates converged on the Supreme Court in Abuja on Tuesday.

They gathered in line with section 133 of the Electoral Act, which stipulates that election petition tribunals must be established 14 days prior to the elections and their secretariat must open seven days to the elections.

Soon after the Chief Justice arrived in company of other justices of the Supreme Court, the judicial officers took their oath of allegiance.

After the ceremony, the Chief Justice urged members of the tribunals to do justices to cases before them with honesty  in line with the law  and not by personal conviction or affiliations.

Having been inaugurated, the various tribunals will now wait for the election petitions to begin proceedings.