Fred Itua, Abuja
The Senate, yesterday, confirmed Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad as Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
The confirmation followed the screening conducted by the Senate.
Muhammad’s name was sent to the Senate last Thursday by President Muhammadu Buhari for confirmation as the substantive CJN.
“I have the honour to forward the nomination of Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed for confirmation as Chief Justice of Nigeria in accordance with Section 231 (1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), which gives the president the power to appoint a Chief Justice of Nigeria on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council and subject to the confirmation of the appointment by the Senate,” Buhari had said.
After suspending former CJN, Walter Onnoghen, over allegations of breach of Code of Conduct, Buhari administered oath of office Mohammed as the acting CJN in January 2019.
Onnoghen later resigned in April, two months after he was sued for false declaration of assets.
Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, asked Mohammad to explain why there appeared to be serious conflicts in the pronouncements of the Supreme Court on the issue of technicalities, particularly as they affect some judgements.
Responding, Mohammed tried to define and explain what technicalities were about, especially when they arose in the course of the dispensation of justice.
He said: “We have technicalities in our laws and this is because these laws were inherited. We inherited them from the British, the British had for some times ago introduced what is known as technicalities in their laws.“If something is technical, it is in a way giving a leeway for double interpretation. It may be interpreted one way by Mr. A or it may be interpreted the other way by Mr. B.
“If something technical comes before the court, what we normally do is the trial court will ask people who are experts in that field to come and testify.
“Several of our laws are dependent on technicality. But remember when we come we have what is known as rules of interpretation. We resort to rules of interpretation.
“There are several rules of interpretation. It is through that we resolve the problem that is technically raised. That is the answer.”
Muhammed was equally very categorical on the need to facilitate the smooth operations of the judiciary by the executive arm of government by providing necessary facilities and structures.
He tasked the legislature to also use its powers to sanitise the Nigerian society and make it free of corruption and other crimes by amending necessary laws.
Noting that the days of sleeping with all eyes closed were over for Nigerians, he asked the legislature to rise to the occasion and put things right. He said in those days when he finished from the law school, when the whites were in charge, things were better as there was nothing like corruption.
“Unfortunately, when it came down to us, this happens virtually in all the states now, we started facing problems here and there. Let me say, generally, that corruption is inbuilt in the person who wants to be corrupted or the person who corrupts because if there is no corruption then there is no person who will be corrupted.
“Left to me, they should face same music. Therefore, I am urging members of the parliament both here and at the state level, if need be, we take a holistic look at our criminal laws. Let us amend them.
“Let us take care of all these. Let us provide adequately so that it will serve to interpret the practices of this kind of things,” he added.
He said the laws are not adequate as some are willing to commit and suffer the punishment, which is light. So, they will go and spend two years only to come out and enjoy their millions.
“Please, it is the responsibility of the legislature to see that it sanitizes the society.
“I believe the legislature, either at the national level or at the state level, has every power to legislate or to amend the legal system through legislation to overcome these.
“What we want is to see to how we can sanitize the society. Gone are the days when we used to sleep with our eyes closed in an open space with your room open, nobody will enter your room and do anything.
“I am talking of early 60s and I believe up to 1975 it was something like that. It can never happen again. It may be difficult for it to happen. “We have to check ourselves because the problem is with us so we have to check ourselves. That is one of the ways we can sanitise the society. In my view, it is only the legislature that can put things right.”
The CJN disclosed that lack of financial autonomy is crippling Judiciary operations pointing out that “the judiciary in some States are being denied even the statutory grants”
According to him, it is time for the National Assembly to intervane and close all lose ends.
He said what is keeping the judiciary aback is the lack of autonomy.
“We are not asking for anything more than what is provided in the budget. Believe me if you go to some States you will find out that the judiciary is refused even the normal monthly grant.
“They have houses, offices to maintain, and where they are collecting revenue they are not supposed to dip their hands into the revenue because their revenue must go back to the State,” he said.