Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, yesterday, cried out
that allegation of judges collecting bribes before granting bail to accused
persons had become rampant, and vowed to fish out such judges and administer
appropriate sanctions on them. The CJN who spoke
while flagging off the 2012 Biennial Conference of All Nigeria Judges of the
lower courts, organised by the National Judicial Council, NJI, said: “There
have also been complaints regarding some of you on laziness in the discharge of
judicial duties, lateness in sitting and non-sitting at all and so on.
participants, as you are probably aware, I rose from being one of you to my
present position. Going down the memory lane, I recall with pride that some
decades ago I was a judge of the lower court and a magistrate to be precise. I
recall with nostalgia our commitment, loyalty and dedication to our
adjudicatory duties at the time. I also recall that the current luxuries of the
courtrooms (inadequate as they may be now), the perks of office and the glamour
with which your offices are now associated were not available to us then.
compare the meagerness of the salaries and allowances of my days on the lower
court bench with the current salaries and other perquisites of office of this
era. I make bold to say that all of us took up appointment on the lower court
bench then not so much for the material attraction (because there was none
then), but rather for the honour, the respect and the sincere desire to be true
representatives of the Almighty God. Our words were our bonds and to call the
integrity of a Judge to question was then a taboo as every Judge, whether of
the lower court or the higher court lived above board.
appear that things have changed drastically between then and now. Heads of
courts receive reports and petitions concerning some judges of lower courts
which are rather difficult to believe. Allegations of corruption are almost
of the above that I find the theme of this conference: ‘Judicial Reforms and
the Administration of Justice’, timely and germane. However, I must quickly
stress that we should let the reform start from the hearts of individuals
concerned. I urge that you reform yourself and allow yourself to be reformed by
amending your conduct that brings dishonour to the judiciary as an institution.
Let your conduct be seen to be both ethical and impeccable.
above board; sit promptly at 9: 00 am; be fair to litigants and other patrons
of your courts; lead your staff by example and by so doing, the image of the
judiciary will continue to receive high rating in the opinion of the public.
warn that the Judicial Service Commissions of various jurisdictions will not
hesitate to administer appropriate sanctions to any Judge of the lower courts
Administrator of the NJI, Justice Umaru Eri, who noted that 75 to 80 per cent
of cases were determined at the lower courts, said efforts were on top gear
towards transforming the Nigerian judiciary from a manual paper-based
professional environment to an automated one.”
of initiatives aimed at improving access to justice for all persons, of which
the use of Information and Communications Technology, ICT, will play a crucial
own is nothing without competent and willing personnel. It is important to note
therefore that the implementation of ICT depends solely on attitudinal change
of its users such as Judicial Officers, Court Staff, Lawyers and court users.
and my practical knowledge of the prisons, 50 per cent of the warrants of those
awaiting trials are signed by Judges of the Lower Courts, that is to say
Magistrates, Area Court and Customary Court Judges. Why do we send suspect
accused of overnight cases like minor theft, wandering, petty quarrels, perhaps
at Club Houses, assault and improper dressing, to mention but a few, on remand?
in to requests for remand on mere presentation of First Information Report by
the Police? In most cases, these young persons plead not guilty and our lower
courts proceed to grant them bail pending trial. They find themselves in prison
because they have no sureties.
that require caution and discharge. We also have awkward situation where people
are arrested for what they call improper dressing or being unable to explain
their visible means of livelihood. Such people are arrested and detained to
of people being detained for being unable to pay their debts and in extreme
cases, greasing the palms of some of these lower courts to detain their
perceived enemies. We have had cases of courts sending young boys into
detention for contesting with colleagues to marry.
have had politicians ensuring detention of their opponents in prison until
after the elections are over. I therefore call on the various Judicial Service
Commissions in the States to out rightly discipline any Judge of lower court
found to abuse his powers. Bail in all these cases should be automatic with no