In the wake of the recent assault on the judiciary, the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen has called on Judges to remain focused, bold and to resist all forms of undue influence and blackmail in the discharge if their duties.
Rather than be subdued by the onslaught, Justice urged Judges to take advantage of the development to reaffirm their commitment to the rule of law and independence of the third arm of government.
The Acting CJN gave the admonition on Friday while declaring open, the annual Court of Appeal Justices Conference in Abuja.
While calling on Judges to shun corruption in all ramifications, Justice Onnoghen urged them to join hands in the fight against corruption before it consumes the nation.
“As you well know, the judiciary recently came under unprecedented assault in its history. As traumatic as it is, it provides an opportunity for us to reaffirm our commitment to the rule of law and independence of our judiciary.
“Let me quickly add that the battle for the soul of the judiciary can only be fought and won from a position of integrity, judicial independence, and fairness in the dispensation if justice to all who come before you.
“I therefore urge you to remain focused at all times. Be bold and try to resist all forms of undue influence, both external and within. Blackmail in any form must not be entertained. Shun all forms of corruption.
“The current fight against corruption by the present administration is real and commendable. We must all join hands to fight this monster, lest it consumes us.” Justice Onnoghen admonished.
He noted that the judiciary remained the only organ if government that can guarantee its independence by the conduct and utterances if judicial officers.
In a veil reference to the issue of conflicting judgements emanating from the appellate court in recent times, Justice Onnoghen appealed to the Justices of the court to always adhere to the principles of ‘stare decisis’ (judicial precedents) set by the Supreme Court, as a guide to arriving at right judgements.
Meantime, the CJN has called on the Court of Appeal to move away from shielding the activities of the courts from the public and to engage the media to showcase it’s activities of the court so as to encourage public enlightenment and boost confidence of the judiciary.
“We must cautiously move away from shielding the courts from the public. Times have changed and time has come to open up a window of communication to the public.
“You have to engage the media to showcase the activities of your courts, especially your efforts at better justice delivery to litigants. This will encourage public enlightenment and boost confidence in the judiciary, as well as remove the public perception of the judiciary as a closed society.”
In her opening remarks, the President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa reflected on the achievements of the court and score the court high in its relentless task of dispensing justice.
Justice Bulkachuwa explained that the annual conference was an opportunity to brainstorm on the many lingering issues as they prepare for the common good year.
She commended the court for remaining resolute in the wake of the challenges posed by allegations of corruption and petitions that were raised against the court.