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Judicial Independence under threat in Nigeria— NBA President

by on September 17, 2019
 

The president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, has accused the Buhari-led government of undermining the independence of the judiciary.

Mr Usoro gave the remark at an event to mark the beginning of the 2019 judicial year in Abuja.

He accused the executive arm of government and its agencies of plotting to “tele-guide the activities and decisions of the courts”.

Mr Usoro, who is facing trial on allegations of fraud, was one of the strong voices against the removal of former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.

Mr Onnoghen was forced out of office, following allegations of false asset declaration.

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Mr Onnoghen’s removal, weeks before Nigeria’s General election in February was condemned by critics as a move by the executive to gag the judiciary.

In his speech, which as one of many others at the 2019 judicial year opening ceremony, Mr Usoro said “the mental and physical disposition of judges was instrumental to the attainment of justice in any society”.

He also said the independence of mind and thoughts by judges in the determination of matters before the courts is under severe attack.

He said the executive arm of government and its agencies are increasingly and
unceasingly critical of the judiciary and its decisions “particularly in matters that the Government and its agencies may be interested in.”

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“It is not unusual these days to hear high officials of government talk down the judiciary and ridiculously and rather ill-advisedly dump all the ills of society on the judiciary,” he said. “Decisions by Your Lordships are sometimes brazenly denigrated and attributed to ulterior and ill motives – and these on social and traditional media platforms.”

He also said “veiled and sometimes open and, in all cases, audacious attempts are made to tele-guide and program the decisions of courts”.

“These are very dangerous practices that destroy the independence of the judiciary and by extension the rule of law and indeed the fabric of our society,”the NBA president said.

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Mr Usoro said the success of a democracy was largely dependent on a free judiciary and that denigrating the judicial sector was an invitation to anarchy.

“The society needs and can only survive if we have independent-minded judges who are empowered to dispense justice to all manner of men, including government departments, without fear or favor,” he said. “We can only survive as a nation if the independence and vibrancy of the judiciary, particularly, the non-interference with the thoughts and decision-making processes of Your Lordships, are guaranteed and protected.”

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