By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi
The National Judicial Council (NJC) has formally barred judges and court staff from soliciting or accepting gifts from other arms of government.
In a statement issued yesterday, in Abuja, the NJC reiterated its independence as an arm of government and has outlawed any form of lobbying of other arms of government by the Judiciary or any of its institutions.
It has also outlined new measures to curb corruption and other unethical conduct among judicial officers and other court staff.
These are contained in a new National Judicial Policy (NJP) to be launched by the NJC.
The new policy has also outlined how complaints against judges and its staff will not be made public.
The new policy seeks to merge and improve on the existing NJC’s NJP and a similar policy by the National Judicial Institute (NJI).
The existing Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers provides that “a judges and members of his/her family shall neither ask for nor accept any gift, bequest, favour, or loan on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties.”
But, the provision in the new policy specifically bars judges and other court staff from accepting gifts from other arms of government, and made compliance mandatory.
Section 2(3)(2) of the new policy states:” The Code of Conduct fro Judicial Officers and Code of Conduct for Court Employees, with the amendment discouraging acceptance of gifts from other arms of government, should be such as would be adequate. Compliance with their provisions shall be mandatory.”
On its relationship with other arms of government, the NJP prescribes that “the Judiciary shall not resort to lobbying in ensuring that the Legislature and the Executive perform their constitutional responsibilities. All arms of government should respect the doctrine of separation of powers as enshrined in the Constitution. The policy has also introduced measures to further keep complaints against judges and other court staff from the media and public domain. Provisions in this regard are contained in section 2(2)(4) to 2(2)(9).
“It shall be the policy of the Judiciary on complaints of misconduct against judicial officers or employees of the Judiciary shall not be leaked or published in the media.
“Where complaints on allegations against Judicial Officers and Court employees are submitted for investigation, the complainant or complainants shall be made to give an undertaking not to do anything to prejudice investigation or actions that may be taken.
“The institutions of the Judiciary concerned with investigation or and implementation of decisions taken on such complaints shall be obliged to cease further action where such complaints are leaked or discussed in the media.
“Where such a leakage is occasioned after the submission of a complaint then all investigations on the complaints shall be suspended, the leakage investigated and if such leakage is from the complainant on through other parties known to such a complainant, such a complaint should be discarded.
“Where such leakage is occasioned prior to the presentation of the complaint and the source of the leakage is found to be the complainant or through other parties known to and connected with the complainant then such complaint shall not be accepted, upon submission, by the appropriate disciplinary body.
“Upon the conclusion of any investigation, the judicial disciplinary bodies may allow public disclosure of their findings, subject to following the proper channels for such disclosure.”
The NJC explained that the new policy was intended to enhance the performance of the Judiciary in the face of mounting public complaint and dwindling public confidence on its ability to deliver justice.
Between October 7-8, the Department of State Security (DSS), in a sting operation, arrested seven judicial officers comprising two justices of the Supreme Court and judges of the Appeal and High Courts across the country over alleged corruption and false declaration of assets.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), who also doubles as the NJC Chairman, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, condemned the raid.