President Muhammadu Buhari says the degenerate welfare and working conditions of the nation’s judiciary, are “serious and would be treated as such,” even as he cautions on the dire state of the country’s economy “currently battling insecurity, corruption and economic challenges,” aggravated by the COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine.
Speaking Thursday at the State House, on the occasion of a visit by the chairman and representatives of the Body of Benchers, a body of legal practitioners of “the highest distinction in the legal profession” President Buhari said a democratic government like the one he leads, “standing on a tripod comprising the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, cannot stand where one of its three pillars, the Judiciary is not properly nurtured, maintained and sustained to deliver on its very pivotal constitutional duties.”
He therefore promised to act quickly on the report of the committee he set up on his own back in 2018 to review the welfare and working conditions of the judiciary:
“Let me assure you that the issues would be given due and urgent attention within the resources available to government.”
The president congratulated the Body of Benchers on the successful completion of the “Benchers’ complex at Jabi,” a building described as impressive that would house the body and provide conference facilities and accepted their invitation to personally commission the structure.
In his presentation, the chairman of the Body of Benchers, Wale Olanipekun, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, described the condition under which judges, especially the Justices of the Supreme Court work as pathetic, appalling and below the minimum standards that are required:
“We want to plead with you. We need to bail out the Judiciary.
The situation is bad. Let us sympathise with the Judiciary. I know you to have respect, feelings for the Judiciary.
You have sympathy, empathy and consideration. The Body of Benchers as elders of the legal profession makes these recommendations to Your Excellency, with a plea that they should be attended to urgently.”
In his introductory remarks, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, made a case for collaboration of the Executive and the Judicial arms, to “open the books to enable both sides see the depth of the decay and know how far to go in putting in place the necessary remedial measures.”
Judiciary: 15 High Court Judges To Face NJC Probe Panels over Alleged Misconduct
The National Judicial Council (NJC) has set up Probe Panels to investigate alleged gross misconduct allegations brought against 15 Judges of the federal and state high courts.
The probe panels are to determine the culpability of the Judges in the various petitions filed against them by individuals and corporate bodies.
This was disclosed in a statement on Friday by the NJC Director of Information, Mister Soji Oye, saying that the decision to investigate the alleged erring judges was taken at the Council’s 99th meeting presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
He stated that the decision is sequel to the submission of recommendations of three Preliminary Complaint Assessment Committees which considered 66 petitions forwarded to them by the Council from all over the Federation.
However, the NJC spokesman did not name the judges to be probed, their divisions, and the specific nature of their alleged offences.
He noted that the Council dismissed petitions against 51 Judicial Officers of the federal and state high courts for either lack of merit, being subjudice, or being matters for an appeal or that the concerned Judge have retired from service.
According to Oye, the Council was formally presented with the reviewed Judicial Information Technology Policy which established the general requirements and responsibilities for the Nigerian judiciary systems and information.
Court Orders Arrest of COAS For Contempt
A High Court Sitting in Minna, the Niger State Capital, has issued a warrant of arrest on the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Faruk Yahaya for contempt.
Also to be arrested include Commandant Training and Doctrine Command, Minna, Major General Olugbenga Olabanji for a similar offense.
The presiding judge, Justice Halima Abdulmalik said the order followed upon hearing on motion on notice brought before the court in pursuant of order forty-two rule ten of the Niger State High Court Civil procedure 2018.
Justice Abdulmalik ruled that the order is commuting Yahaya and Olabanji to be kept in Minna correctional custody for contentions of order of this court on 12 October, 2022.
According to her, the two suspects are to remain in custody until they purge themselves of the contempt.
Justice Abdulmalik then adjourned the case to December 8 for continuation.
In November, Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon of the Federal High Court, Abuja sentenced the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba to three months in prison for disobeying a court order.
Delivering ruling, Justice Olajuwon issued the order following a suit filed by a former police officer, Patrick Okoli who claimed he was unlawfully and compulsorily retired from the Nigeria Police Force.
Also in November, Justice Chizoba Oji of a High Court Abuja convicted the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa for contempt and ordered that he should be committed to prison at Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja.
The judge held that Bawa was in contempt of the order of the court made on November 21, 2018, directing the commission to return to an applicant, his Range Rover and the sum of N40 million.
However, Justice Oji in a subsequent ruling set aside the conviction of Bawa after hearing an application brought by the EFCC chairman.
Senate Passes the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (Repeal and Enactment) Bill, 2022, as amended.
* To provide Uniform Sentencing Policies and more Justice Mechanisms
The Senate has passed the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (Repeal and Enactment) Bill, 2022, as amended.
The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (Repeal and Enactment) Bill, 2022(SB.920) which was read the third time and passed, provides for uniform Sentencing policies and more restorative justice mechanisms, such as – Victim Offender Mediation; Suspended Sentence and Probation; and Community Service, etc.
The passage was sequel to the presentation of the report by the Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, Ekiti Central led Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
In his presentation, Senator Bamidele said that the Senate in its amendment changed the ” Establishment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee to ” Establishment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Council”
Senator Bamidele said that the Observations and findings were “That stakeholders unanimously supported the passage of the Bill in view of its strategic relevance to the reform in the justice sector as it is one of the policy thrusts of this administration;
“That to entrench the culture of fair, efficient and effective criminal justice service delivery in Nigeria and to improve outcomes, through active partnership, it is imperative that the extant Act be holistically reviewed with a view to making all-encompassing provisions, targeted at addressing all the inherent challenges in the course of its as implementation with respect to some judicial pronouncements on the subject matter;
“That that the establishment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Council is in line with what is obtainable in other jurisdictions, especially, the United States of America where there is Bureau of Justice and Criminal Justice Board in the United Kingdom, etc.;
“That the contemplation for the establishment of the Council should not be perceived as a new statutory body, as there is in existence, the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC), established pursuant to the extant Act and funded through the Federal
Ministry of Justice. The legislative intent of this Bill is merely to substitute the word “Committee” with the word “Council”. This is to ensure operational efficiency of the ACJMC and enable it to access its Capital funding from the Federal Ministry of Finance. This contemplation is also in line with the advice of the Federal Ministry Finance, which is of the opinion that statutory budgetary provisions cannot be released directly to Committees, as assignments of Committees are perceived to be Ad-Hoc in nature with limited or specific timeframe. However, this is not the intention behind the establishment of the ACJMC, in view of its strategic role as it pertains to administration criminal justice in the country;
“That in jurisdictions where similar bodies exist, they are empowered to provide directions on operational delivery, aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, by bringing together, criminal justice agencies to support joint work, targeted at improving service delivery in order to reduce crime, recidivism and unnecessary confinement. All these are well streamlined and structured in the Bill for the promotion of safe and fair criminal justice system for the enhancement of quick dispensation of justice;
“That the proposed Bill has been painstakingly structured and clearly drawn-out to address the plethora of shortcomings of the extant Act as well as make all-encompassing provisions in line with global best practices to ensure that we consolidate on the gains/achievements the country has recorded in our justice sector in the past few years;
“That the contemplated Council will not pose additional financial burden on the Government as the existing Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee is already being funded through the Federal Ministry of Justice Budget. This clarification is necessary for the avoidance of doubt; and
“That the enactment of this Bill will guarantee and ensure regulatory mechanism and framework to properly oversee the implementation of the Act by ensuring effective criminal justice administration in the country.”
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