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Why Judiciary, most disciplined arm of govt

By Kenneth Atavti

National Judicial Council, NJC, has declared that judiciary remains the most disciplined in all ramifications among the three arms of government in the country.

Out of the arms -the executive, legislature and judiciary, the Council said that the latter stands out having been able to carry out constant internal cleansing to protect its integrity.

Executive Secretary of NJC, Ahmed Gambo Saleh gave the clarification while reacting to the allegation of corruption in the judiciary by the legislature during the screening of Hon. Justices John Tsoho and Benedict Bakwaph Kanyip as the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, respectively.

The Senate had on Monday alleged that the underfunding of the judiciary and poor welfare packages for justices, judges and judicial officers, have get them involved in corruption to the extent that if saints are appointed from heaven to take charge of the process, they will be corrupt.

But Saleh maintained that if the corruption in the three arms of government was juxtaposed, the judiciary will be saint.

He said: “The welfare packages for judicial officers in this country is nothing to write home about. Judges’ salaries were last reviewed in 2007.

“I don’t think that there’s all that corruption in the judiciary. But when the so-called corruption in the judiciary is weighed against what is obtainable in other systems, the judiciary would be a saint.”

Saleh said “the welfare packages for judicial officers in this country is nothing to write home about. Judges’ salaries were last reviewed in 2007.

“I don’t think that there’s all that corruption in the judiciary. But when the so-called corruption in the judiciary is weighed against what is obtainable in other systems, the judiciary would be a saint.”

The Senate, however, agreed that no democracy can survive with a compromised judiciary, just as it made a passionate case for the establishment of Special Intervention Fund that would help in improving funding for the arm of government and welfare package for justices, judges and judicial officers, even as it stressed the urgent for financial autonomy for the Judiciary.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), said Nigerians have extreme urgent expectations from the nation’s judges and justices, adding that “it’s time for Nigeria to show that we are serious and understand the full and true meaning of the independence of the judiciary.”

He explained: “For so long, has the story dominated our political space that our judiciary is corrupt. As far as we are concerned, it is time Nigeria to change the narrative, it is time for Nigeria to show that we are serious and we understand the full and true meaning of the independence of the judiciary, a cardinal aspect of it is financial independence.

“We are concerned as a committee and as a senate, that we must not allow the rest of the international community to leave us behind.

“Something urgently needs to be done about the plight of the Nigerian Judiciary. No Nigerian will not be surprised to hear that when a judge has to go out of the station all he gets us N25, 000 to stay in a hotel, and you wonder which hotel.

“Essentially, my Lord, we are concerned about the welfare of our justices, our judges and the judicial officers

“Under the present set of circumstances, if we appoint saints from heaven, assuming we are able to do so, to serve on our bench as justices and judges, it is only the strength of character of the individual judge and justices that can prevent him from being corrupt.

“No one will endorse or support corruption, and as far as we are concerned, it is also not a moral history, it is a sociological history and it needs to be addressed materially, thought very special and extra-budgetary provision.

“We are convinced that there is the need to make available to our Judiciary a special intervention fund and I believe this will be an issue for both the legislative and executive arms of government to address most speedily beyond the current budgetary provision.”

Senator Bamidele, who hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for funding the judiciary, however, asked for additional funding.

“On behalf of this committee and Senate, we want to commend the president, Muhammadu Buhari for the continued funding of the judiciary since he became president.

“And in commending Mr. President, for us to say as elected representatives of the people that it is not yet Uhuru. A lot still needs to be done. And for us to be able to catch up, there is a need for special intervention fund. Details of which we believe with the leadership of the legislature, we have to work out with the executive arm of government and after the special intervention fund, we can then agree on how there can be consistent increase on an annual basis in the annual budget of the nation as far as the judiciary is concerned.”

The chairman appealed to the nominees to ensure a holistic reform of judiciary as well as provide the best of leadership that would change the narrative.

“I call on the lordship to do their best in the event that the Senate after laying our reports and recommendations chooses to confirm your lordship, as chief judge of the federal high court and president national industrial court, do you best to provide the kind of leadership and also join and spearhead the subtle struggle for the improvement of the welfare of our judicial officers and do all you can to endure that the reforms we need in the judicial sector are driven home. Because without these reforms all these efforts will continue to be a highway to nowhere,” Senator Bamidele stressed.

The Senate Committee, Human Rights and Legal Matters with Senator Bamidele as Chairman is made up 14 members and they are all Lawyers and the Vice-Chairman is Senator Emmanuel Oker- Jev, PDP, Benue.

Other members of the Committee are Senators Bala Ibn Na’Allah, APC, Kebbi; Abdullahi Adamu, APC, Nasarawa; Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed, APC, Adamawa; James Manager, PDP, Delta; Lawrence Ewhudjakpo, Bayelsa; Bashir Ajibola, Osun; Chukwuka Utazi, Enugu; Ike Ekweremadu, Enugu; Gabriel Suswam, Benue; Peter Nwaoboshi, Delta; Benjamin Uwajumogu, Imo and Ibrahim Hassan Hadeja, Jigawa.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had last week written to the Senate, asking the Senate to confirm the appointments of Hon. Justices John T. Tsoho and Benedict Bakwaph Kanyip as the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria respectively.

The nominees were referred to Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters chaired by Opeyemi Bamidele, APC, Ekiti Central to report back at Plenary in one week.

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