Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, at the State House, Abuja, met behind closed doors meeting with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.
Onnoghen, who said he was in the Presidential Villa for a regular interaction with the president to keep him abreast of latest development in the Judiciary, assured that the judiciary was on the same page with the anti-corruption war of the Federal Government.
On claims that the judiciary was not the same page with the Executive on the current anti-corruption war, the CJN said, “I have answered that before and l still say the same thing. We are on the same page with the Executive. There are three arms of government and these three arms constitutes the government. The government is not only the Executive.”
On allegations that the Judiciary is not doing enough to ensure speedy trial of cases, Onnoghen said that is not the case.
“Now, l believe that you know, with your experience of many years of practice that there has never been situation in which any case was taken to court and decided upon and the Judge was not there to listen to the case. Or having finished hearing, he refused to deliver judgement.
“So, when cases are not tried expeditiously and the Judge is there, ready to listen to the case, you come and for one reason or the other, you take a date to adjourn the case, and the courts grants the adjournment which is normal during proceedings, you cannot turn round and blame the Judge for that. These are the basic things that everybody must know.
“We must all work together, cooperate for the system to move forward. But if you keep thinking that the Judiciary is the culprit in this delay process, you are not telling the whole story.
“It is not the judiciary that would go and arrest someone before looking for evidence, it is not the judiciary that would go into investigations. No, we do not operate the inquisitional mode of justice as it is practiced by the French. Our own is that an independent body must investigate, prosecute while the judge decides.”
Asked if he was happy with the performance of the Judges so far, the CJN responded in the affirmative.
“Yes. So far, so good. Under the circumstances, l must admit that so far, so good. It is in order to enable you know the workings of the system that l set up the COMPRECO (Commission for the Prevention of Corruption) committee.
“All along, everybody is passing buck, the prosecution will say it is not our responsibility, we are not the cause of the delay, the investigator will say l am not the cause, the Judge will say, l am not the cause. So, the people must know who is the cause if there is delay, that is why l set up that committee. And it made up of both the defense counsel, the prosecutor and the Judiciary under the NJC.”
Giving an update on prisons decongestion, Onnoghen said, “You are seeing everything being done on the issue. Next week, we are continuing with our action.
“But there is one thing you need to know, there is the physical constraint about the congestion itself. How many are meant to be contained in a prison room and how many are there now.
“Secondly, you should also know that the actual prisoners are fewer compared with the total number you see there. This is where the issue of awaiting trial comes in and that is the aspect where prison decongestion is working on and l can assure you that this is being handled,” the CJN said.