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I will provide a strong willed Judiciary – Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Samuel Onnoghen

by on March 2, 2017

After a rigorous screening, the Sen­ate yesterday con­firmed Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).

And to meet the expec­tations of Nigerians who fought virulently for his nomination by the Execu­tive arm of government and confirmation by the Legis­lature, Onnoghen listed the rebranding of the country’s judiciary as among his top priorities for the crisis-rid­den Third Arm of Govern­ment.

Onnoghen, who has been acting as CJN since No­vember 10, 2016, was cleared to assume the substantive portfolio by the Senate on Wednesday.

The last time a southerner headed the apex court was in 1985, when Justice Ayo Gbriel Irikefe held the office. The north has virtu­ally produced all the CJNs and Onnoghen’s is most controversial.

Fielding a barrage of ques­tions from the Senators on various issues bedevilling the judiciary, Onnoghen, who re­mained unruffled, admitted that the Nigerian judiciary was corrupt, but quickly added that “it was a product of a corrupt society.”

According to him, “I will preside over a judiciary that is strong-willed and of unques­tionable integrity”.

He also promised that he would lead the judiciary out of its present predicament and image crisis to become a re­formed and vibrant organ of state.

Onnoghen said: “The ju­diciary is part of the socie­ty. There is corruption eve­rywhere but efforts are being made to check it in accordance with our rules. The judiciary under my watch will be strong-willed. The judiciary under my watch will be of unquestionable integrity. I believe that the judi­ciary will come out of the pre­sent situation stronger”.

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He also pledged that the judiciary under his leadership would not be compromised, noting that once the judiciary of any nation “is politicised, that is going to be the end of that country.”

The CJN cautioned against unfounded accusations against judges, stating that whenever that is done, “you are dealing with the privileges of men and women who have no privilege of talking back.”

Justice Onnoghen also said that the judiciary is not opposed to calls for the setting up of a separate court for the trial of corruption cases with a view to speeding up the course of justice.

He however noted that merely setting up a separate court for corruption matters would not solve the problem if handlers of such cases fail to dutifully carry out their respon­sibilities.

According to him, “there are three principal figures who are involved in every mat­ter.” He listed such personali­ties to include the investigator, the prosecutor and the judge, pointing out that if any of the personalities fail to thoroughly discharge his/her responsibili­ties, it will lead to frequent ad­journment of cases and even­tual prolonged trials.”

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He however warned that unless the existing system was improved upon, setting up new courts would make no differ­ence.

Onnoghen also spoke on rampant cases of conflicting judgments in the courts, and that such instances are not to­tally alien to the course of ad­judication.

However, he identified two factors responsible for conflict­ing judgments as follows:

First, he said a conflicting judgment may arise when a plaintiff files a suit on one mat­ter in a state and files another in another state. According to him, the processes will not be the same, submitting that while the judge in the first state can reserve judgment, the other can dismiss it depending on exist­ing processes in each state.

Second, he said conflict­ing judgments could also arise when several appeals emanate from a single case, pointing out that a conflicting judgment in such instances occur when a judge does not thoroughly ex­amine all the appeals before de­livering his judgment.

Onnoghen also expressed concern over recurrent cas­es of disobedience to court or­ders, noting that such situations could only be addressed by the legislature and the executive, adding: “Judiciary will welcome a day when a decision is hand­ed down by the court and it is obeyed. That is when the judici­ary will be independent.”

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Looking undeterred by the risk of losing his confir­mation, Onnoghen did not mince words to slam the sena­tors along with other politicians whom he accused of bringing cases to the Supreme Court when they actually know that such cases ought to terminate in the Appeal Court.

He therefore read the Riot Act to politicians whom he said had cultivated such habit, as he disclosed that a new arrange­ment was being evolved which would ensure that any lawyer who henceforth brings a case designed to terminate at the Appeal Court to the Supreme Court will be made to fund such proceedings as the penal­ty for failing to properly advise his client.

But the action prompted Senate President Bukola Sa­raki to end the screening ses­sions abruptly and hence, asked the nominee to “take a bow and go.”

But Saraki’s unilateral deci­sion elicited protests from his colleagues who said they were denied the opportunity to ask Onnoghen critical questions.

Nevertheless, Saraki in his remark, charged the new CJN to ensure that the judiciary is entrenched during his tenure as the last hope of the com­mon man.

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  • akin sodimu
    March 2, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    May God give Onnoghen, the boldness of a lion and the courage of the righteous, to carry out his duty diligently to the satisfaction of all and sundry. Amen!


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