Mixed reactions trail appeal court’s ruling stopping EFCC from prosecuting judges
Mixed reactions have trailed the Court of Appeal’s ruling stopping the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from prosecuting serving judges.
A human rights lawyer, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, yesterday lauded the verdict, as asserting the independence of the judiciary.In the landmark judgment delivered on December 11, 2017, the court ruled that cases of official misconduct against judges must be undertaken first by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Adegboruwa said: “The decision is sound in law and logic, especially in helping to assert the much-desired independence of the judiciary. In recent times, judicial officers had been under mindless attack by the executive, arising from President Muhammadu Buhari’s several statements that that the judiciary was his headache.”
He noted that the hallowed democratic principle of separation of powers requires that though the three arms of government should be independent, but they must work together for the effective administration of the realms.
He lamented that the executive had hijacked the legislative and judicial arms, which it has not allowed to function effectively and independently, as anticipated by the Constitution.
“It is therefore a welcome relief indeed, that judicial officers would no longer be under the fear and tremor of the intimidation by the executive, in the discharge of their official duties.
“A judge should be free to deliver his judgment according to his conscience and the law, without fear or favour, and without affection or ill will,” he said.
He explained that under Paragraph 21(b) and (d) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, the NJC is to exercise the power of disciplinary control over all judicial officers.
Adegboruwa said without such due process, “judges would become liable to doing the bidding of the executive, since it had become possible to pick up a judge and lock him up, whenever he delivers a judgment that is not favourable to the executive.”He, however, cautioned that the ruling should not be a blanket one, but limited to matters involving the discharge of judicial duties.
Meanwhile, a non-governmental organisation, Access to Justice (A2J) has disagreed with the decision of the appellate court.The organisation said the ruling has grave implications on the ability of law enforcement agencies to function freely without hindrance.It added that it is an infringement on the doctrine of separation of powers and the rule of law, adding that it would have negative derivative consequences.
The A2J stated: “It would mean that, at the level of the states, no Magistrate, Kadi, Area or Customary Court Judge could be investigated by the law enforcement agencies, until the state Judicial Service Commission had first ‘stripped’ such a judicial officer of his or her judicial standing.
“The same applies to court employees who are under the disciplinary control of the state judicial service commissions. “It would also mean that a police officer could not be investigated or prosecuted for any crimes committed in the course of discharging his functions, until the Police Service Commission (PSC) had first stripped him of his standing as a police officer.
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