Senate moves to resolve Supreme Court crisis, NBA demands accountability

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The Senate and the Nigerian Bar Association have waded into the conflict between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, and Justices of the Supreme Court over issues bothering on welfare and working condition.

 

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, at the plenary on Wednesday, mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to, as a matter of urgency, wade into the crisis.

Lawan gave the directive moments before the Senate adjourned plenary, saying, “We may recall that there were some issues coming out of the judiciary.



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“We must have interest in what is happening in that arm of government. I believe that we owe it to Nigerians, to look into what is happening in that arm of government, with a view to bringing solutions to the problem that our judiciary in Nigeria faces.”

He added, “So, I will urge our Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to get involved with the CJN and judiciary generally – at this level with the Supreme Court – to find out what the real issues are  and how the National Assembly can help.”

Also, the NBA stated that there is an urgent need for fundamental reforms of the administration and governance of the judiciary.

The association’s president, Olumide Akpata, stated this in a statement issued on Wednesday in reaction to a memo written by 14 Justices of the Supreme Court to the CJN, in which they alleged various improprieties and administrative inefficiencies and the subsequent response of the CJN.

The NBA lamented that the situation has not only affected the judicial responsibilities of the Justices but also impacted on the justice administration process.

While calling for the independence and financial autonomy of the judiciary, the NBA also noted that it is important that the judiciary must not only be, but should also be seen as being above board and transparent in the management and allocation of the resources currently available to it.

The statement partly read, “The judiciary must entrench the principles of accountability and probity in the manner in which it expends allocated resources. While the fight for increased budgetary allocations for the Judiciary continues, it is important that the available resources be used for the welfare and wellbeing of our judicial officers, as well as for the improvement of the infrastructure and facilities required by our judges and justices to effectively discharge their duties.

“There is a clear need for mechanisms to be put in place to ensure that the judiciary (with the Supreme Court leading the charge) is providing the necessary template to other arms of government on transparent procurement and budgeting. This will reduce the perception in some quarters that the Judiciary is not accountable to anyone and is also not self-regulating.”

Akpata also noted that with the election season, and the humongous war chests that the politicians and political parties are amassing, the only way to insulate and make the judicial officers immune to the “temptations of being corrupted by these politicians is to assure them of decent working conditions and adequate compensation both in and out of service.”

The NBA president also stated that the judges and Justices, on their part, have a duty to ensure that the honour and respect that is accorded the judiciary by the public “is not lost or dwindled, and that the public continues to hold the judiciary in the highest esteem.”



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