Be Impartial, Grant Fair Hearing To Parties, CJN Warns Judges

Justice Walter Onnoghen
Justice Walter Onnoghen

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, Monday, showed judges in the country red alert: National Judicial Council, NJC, would not hesitate to deal with any judicial officer found to have acted in breach of his oath of office and code of conduct.

To forestall the punitive measure, Onnoghen warned them to be impartial and accord fair hearing to all the parties in any dispute brought before them for adjudication.

The CJN stated, “Democracy in itself is nothing if the implication of the fundamental principles enshrined in the constitution of this nation cannot be readily determined in constitutional adjudication by a Judiciary manned by upright judicial officers.

“This is premised on the fact that as the society depends on equity and justice, those who are appointed to adjudicate to all manner of persons must ensure that they themselves are standing erect far away from all manner of injustice.

“Therefore, much energy, skill and experience must be devoted to strengthening the underlying principles of impartiality, diligence, competence, propriety, qualitative justice, strict adherence to the Rule of Law, speedy dispensation of justice and fair conduct of cases with a view to ensuring that justice is not only done but must be seen to be done.

“It is only when these factors are present that judicial functions can validly and effectively be exercised.”

Justice Onnoghen gave the admonition in a keynote address he presented at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Orientation Course for newly appointed Magistrates at the National Judicial Institute, NJI, in Abuja.

He said the theme of the Course, ‘Promoting Judicial Excellence in the Administration of Justice’, was apt and topical, considering the fact that judicial integrity and the Rule of Law are the underlying principles of justice and the bedrock of democracy.

“This course has served as a constant reminder to Magistrates, of their crucial role in the society and the need to balance conflicting interests with a bid to ensuring a Stable polity,” the CJN noted.

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The CJN stressed the need to develop standard uniform procedure for basic functioning of Magistrate Courts across the federation, since they are easily accessible to the grassroots.

In his address that was read by Justice Bayang Akaahs of the Supreme Court, Onnoghen stated “In addition, the introduction of case management systems will aid prompt disposition of cases and invariably enhance quick dispensation of justice in your courts.

“Although numerous challenges are confronting the Criminal Justice Sector, there is a determined resolve on the part of the Judiciary to face these challenges squarely, especially so that we can create a better future not only for the Judiciary but also for our great country.

“I am therefore using this opportunity to solicit your support and cooperation for this reform which will impact positively on our justice delivery system.

“It is quite often said that the litmus test to find out how free and democratic any nation is; is to take a cursory look at its Judiciary to find out what powers the nation is. prepared to concede to this vital partner in governance.’’

“The complete and real independence of the Judiciary is thus a reflection of the nation and of freedom. The independence of the Judiciary can only be sustained and guaranteed when there is no interference by the other arms of Government in the discharge of its duties.

“The issue of in-adequate funding at the State level is one of the greatest challenges confronting the Judiciary of this nation.

“These challenges include inadequate funding, manpower development and inadequate facilities, among many others. Therefore, in promoting excellence in the administration of Justice, it is of utmost importance to tackle the challenges facing your courts.

“It is my hope that within the limits of our limited resources, the Judiciary will continuously strive to achieve its Constitutional mandate,” the CJN added.

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Meanwhile, in her welcome address, Justice R.P.I. Bozimo, the Administrator of the NJI,  urged the newly appointed Magistrates to shun every vice capable of bringing the Judiciary into disrepute.

Bozimo said, “As participants, seeing you come from different parts of the country to attend this program attests to the importance of this workshop.

“You must not indulge in practices such as lateness to court, accepting any form of gratification or other forms of inducement. Any person found wanting will face the consequences of such unruly acts.

“We must be at the helm of steering our affairs towards an efficient justice system which the people of our dear nation deserve.

”This requires our collective and individual determination to strive for excellence and the will to work towards the implementation of pragmatic steps aimed at achieving excellence in the administration of justice.”