•Urges Nigerians to petition corrupt judicial officers
From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, yesterday raised the alarm that the nation’s judiciary is under threat.
He spoke during a thanksgiving service at the Methodist Church Nigeria, Abuja Diocese, Zone 3.
Justice Onnoghen who thanked God for seeing him through his delayed emergence as the substantive CJN called on Nigerians to pray for the survival of the judiciary.
He lamented that judicial officers in the country were being castigated and accused of corrupt practices by agents of the Federal Government and politicians without giving them an opportunity to be heard.
Accompanied by his family members, his brother Justices of the Supreme Court, past governors and other senior members of the legal profession, he thanked God for seeing him to the peak of his career:
“I did not set out to be a Judge, but today I am a judge by divine intervention. It is the Lord’s doing, mine is to follow. My prayer is that God should help me and should not let me down.
“I thank Nigerians for attending this event. It is supposed to be personal thing between me and my God, but I have no hiding place. I thank God for fulfilling His promise to me.
“The Judiciary is under threat. Judges and judicial officers, including myself are being castigated without giving opportunity to be heard, but God knows our heart.”
He cited the case involving Anambra Central Senatorial election where a senator had accused the judiciary of robbing her of her mandate.
Justice Onnoghen submitted that the leadership of the country could only get it right if guided by the constitution and rule of law.
Dignitaries at the thanksgiving service presided over by the Archbishop of Abuja Diocese of the Church, the Most Rev. Joseph Oche Job, included the Head of Service of the Federation, former governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, his Cross River State counterpart, Senator Liyel Imoke, the Chief Judge of Cross River State and Senator Ndoma Egba.
Justices of the Supreme Court present were Justices Mary Odili, Bode Rhodes- Vivour; Clara Ogunbiyi; Olukayode Ariwoola; Chima Centus Nweze; John Iyang Okoro and John Fabiyi (retd), while Justice Amina Augie represented the Court of Appeal.
Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) also attended in their numbers including Adegboyega Awomolo and his wife, Bayo Ojo; Niyi Akintola; Sabastine Hon; Alex Izinyon; Joe-Kyari Gadzama; Damien Dodo; Sunday Ameh; Yakubu Maikyau and Godwin Obla.
Rev. Job prayed God to direct and give the CJN the wisdom to lead the nation’s judiciary.
In a related development, Justice Onnoghen called on Nigerians to petition any judicial officer involved in corruption and unprofessional conduct to the National Judicial Council (NJC), which he heads.
He was reacting to a publication titled: “Anambra Central: Judiciary Robbed Me of My Mandate – Ekwunife,” in which the interviewee – Senator Uche Ekwunife – accused the Judiciary of robbing her of her mandate in the 2015 Anambra Central Senatorial Election through nullification.
Justice Onnoghen said Nigerians should learn to take advantage of institutions established to handle allegations of corruption and unprofessional conduct by judicial officers, including cases of judicial fraud, which the senator cited as the reason for the loss of her mandate in the law courts.
According to a statement by the Senior Special Adviser to the CJN on Media, Awassam Bassey, Justice Onnoghen advised against individuals dragging the name of the judiciary in the mud through unsubstantiated allegations.
He advised such individuals to employ well-established institutions and avenues to petition any judicial officer who engaged in corruption and unprofessional conduct.
“In the interest of the generality of Nigerians, and the on-going war against corruption, the Chief Justice of Nigeria calls on Senator Ekwunife to petition the judges she accuses of corruption and unprofessional conduct.
“CJN assures Nigerians that if anyone has evidence against any corrupt judicial officer, and such a person brings forward the necessary documents before the NJC, the concerned judicial officer or officers will be investigated and where found liable, dealt with in accordance with the law.”
He warned politicians to desist from smearing the good image of the nation’s judiciary in general, and the hardworking and honest judicial officers in particular.