Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Mahmud Mohammed yesterday described corruption as a major problem in the judiciary.
He said measures were being intensified to curb the menace, one of which is the unveiling of a National Judicial Policy (NJP) in Abuja yesterday by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The CJN spoke against the background of the security operation against two Supreme Court Justices and other judges, who are due to face corruption charges.
Justice Mohammed, who is also the chairman of the NJC, said: “It would be stating the obvious to opine that the greatest single menace that challenges the justice system in Nigeria today is corruption.
“This endemic vice is not peculiar to any region and ethnic group, cutting across faiths, religious denominations, levels of education and economic status.
“Corruption has serious implications for both the rule of law and access to justice, and must be fought both institutionally and individually.
“This is why the National Judicial Policy contains clear provisions restating the Judiciary’s commitment to transparency and accountability.
“This is clearly spelt out in Paragraph 5.1 of the National Judicial Policy 2016, thus- ‘the National Judicial Policy recognises that the greatest and most damaging challenge to administration of justice is corruption and that tackling this challenge must go beyond mere exhortation and sentiments.’
“The policy gives the legal backing for several multifaceted strategies and guidelines to be developed while the Judiciary continues to walk the talk in ridding corrupt Judicial Officers from its ranks, strictly in accordance with due process and the rule of law,” the CJN said.
Justice Mohammed, who spoke at the launch of the NJP, noted that the absence of such policy in the past has occasioned an uneven growth of the Judiciary.
“Certainly, the absence of a blueprint has resulted in a demand for the transformation of the Nigerian Judiciary into a modern judicial system.
“For a number of years, each Jurisdiction has had to muddle along in developing core values and objectives and this has led to a mixed bag of standards and policies.
“This has also been compounded by the challenging deprivations and paucity of resources, without which critical development was limited.
“The National Judicial Policy is a charter of commitment to the values that elevate not only our judicial institutions, but also those who are employed by or involved in it.
“The importance of the foundational virtues of discipline, efficiency, integrity and enduring commitment are reflected in the National Judicial Policy as embodied in its first three regulations and rules of the policy,” the CJN said.
He added that the policy will also serve as a mechanism to facilitate a greater knowledge of the Judiciary by the other arms of government.
Former CJN Dahiru Musdapher, who was the event’s chairman, noted that the absence of a National Judicial Policy before now resulted in a disjointed development of the Judiciary.
“It is certainly time, given recent events that bring to the fore the importance of the third arm of government in the high expectation reposed in it by every Nigerian.
“The National Judicial Policy provides a statement of intent that will better improve us and protect our institutions and the integrity of the Nigerian Judiciary,” Mudaspher said.
The event, held at the National Judicial Institute (NJI),was attended by eminent personalities, including two other former Chief Justices of Nigeria – Justices Mohammed Uwais and Idris Kutigi; President of the Court of Appeal Zainab Bulkachuwa and retired Justice of the Supreme Court Emmanuel Ayoola.
The event also featured the inauguration, by the CJN, of the Judicial Ethics Committee headed by Justice Kutigi.
The committee, which is saddled with the enforcement of the policy, is required to conduct periodic surveys on behalf of the NJC to provide empirical measurements of compliance with the policy, as it affects the administration of justice and application of ethical standards by all judicial officers and court staff.