Lawyers seek a reformed judiciary under Onnoghen
Legal Practitioners have expressed optimism that the issue of judicial reforms and speedy dispensation of justice would fare better under the newly appointed Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen.
Senior lawyers, who spoke to The Guardian in separate interviews, including Mazi Afam Osigwe, Solo Akuma, Dafe Akpedeye and Paul Ananaba, said the CJN should not only address the delay in justice administration, but also enhanced welfare packages for judges.
Former Secretary General, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Barrister Osigwe, urged the CJN, among other demands, to address the problem of delay in administration of justice, so as to curtail unnecessary influences and corruption of justice.
Osigwe expressed the hope that Onnoghen would put in place measures that would reduce corruption in the judiciary, improve perception of the judiciary as a less corrupt organ of government, as well as, increase people’s confidence in the third arm of government.
He said the CJN would find help by implementing certain positions earlier adopted by the body of lawyers, adding: “If people feel that it is a waste of time going to court, it means they have no confidence in the judiciary. The court must not necessarily convict. Court should convict if a case has been made and if there is evidence that the accused person is indeed, guilty of the offence charged, but not because the prosecution insists that the person must be convicted.
“He should engage the executive on how the judiciary can achieve financial autonomy as contained in the Constitution and as contained in the two judgments in favour of allowing the judiciary to have financial autonomy, so that the executive will not use the issue of release of fund to the judiciary to erode its independence.”
The NBA ex-scribe noted that “where heads of courts have to go to beg governors or ministers or the President for funds to be released to them, impression would then be created that the judiciary is not, after all, independent.”
On his part, a Senior Advocate of Nigera (SAN), Akuma tasked the CJN to address the issue of welfare of judges so as to discourage them from being distracted by finances from other sources, pointing out “if their welfare is adequately taken care of, a decent judge will close his eyes to corruption.”
Akuma enjoined the CJN to device means of fast-tracking hearing and disposition of appeals in the Supreme Court, so that appeals other than election petitions and criminal matters should not last more than more two years.
He regretted the fact that some appeals filed in 2005 or even earlier are still pending at the Supreme Court, stressing that there is urgent need to amend the Constitution to prevent certain cases from coming to the Supreme Court.
Similarly, another senior advocate and former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Delta State, Akpedeye, called for the automation of the judicial process, arguing that since “we in an internet age and it is very important that the judicial sector is not left behind.”
Expressing confidence in Onnoghen’s capacity to move the sector forward, Akpedeye said: “I listen to him during his response to questions from the National Assembly and he depict a man with experience and who knows the problem of the judiciary.”