Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Thomson Okpoko (SAN), Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, and others have suggested ways of addressing the waning public confidence in the judiciary.
Justice Muhammad advocated a concerted effort by all stakeholders to aid the judiciary in the effective discharge of its responsibilities.
Okpoko, who regretted the sorry state of affairs in the judiciary, argued that there was need for more transparency in the operations of the court, including the process of appointing and promoting judges.
Magu advocated the need for commitment among lawyers and judges to rid the society of corruption and unethical conduct.
They spoke in Abuja yesterday at a forum, with the theme: ‘Public Discourse on Justice Delivery in Nigeria: A Framework for Reform’ put together by Justice Reform Project (JRP).
Represented by Justice Ejembi Eko (also of the Supreme Court), the Acting CJN noted that “no society develops without justice. A society decays from injustice.
“Help us to build a nation where no one is oppressed.”
He hailed the organiser of the event for their commitment to judicial reform in the country.
Okpoko, who said he was worried about the future of the legal profession in the country in view of the current unenviable state of affairs in the judiciary, warned about the consequences if things were left unattended to.
He called for attitudinal change among players in the sector to avert a breakdown of law and order.
Okkpoko, who noted that the quality of the output of the judiciary was increasingly dwindling, advocated a review of the process of appointment and promotion of judges.
“The problem is not corruption alone, intellectual incompetence has a major part to play in the matter,” he said.
Okpoko also. expressed discomfort about the growing influence of those outside the judiciary on the operations of the sector.
“Politicians do not only want to control politics, they now also want to control the judiciary.
Magu said: “Irrespective of what the challenges are in the judiciary, senior lawyers and particularly judicial officers must be of high rectitude and must be seen to be so.”
He argued that the contrary will “spells hopelessness and doom for the society.”
He added: “The increasing successes we are achieving as a commission in the areas of convictions, asset forfeiture and recovery and in all aspects of our anti-corruption fight would not have been possible without judicial officers and legal practitioners doing their own bit.
“Your decision to make me part of today’s event has been rewarding for me, especially your expert perspectives on the common issues that confront us all in our legal system and the judiciary,” Magu said.
The convener of JRP, Yemi Candide-Johnson (SAN), blamed the dwindling fortune of the nation’s judiciary on inconsistency, incompetence and corruption.
Candide-Johnson stressed the need for all stakeholders, particularly the elite, to be concerned with the need to urgently reform the judicial system to make it function for the benefit of all.
Candide-Johnson called for the reform of the appointment process in the judiciary to ensure that the most qualified get the job.
Other speakers at the event included Yusuf Ali (SAN), Professor Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), Funke Adekoya (SAN) and former Lagos State’s Attorney General, Olasupo Shasore (SAN).