12 Dec 2014
Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, Thursday warned Justices of the Court of Appeal against delivering conflicting judgments and political associations.
The CJN handed down the warning while declaring open the 2014 annual conference for the justices of the court which took place at its headquarters in Abuja.
He said all too often, the judiciary had been confronted with accusation of conflicting decisions delivered by the Court of Appeal particularly in seemingly straightforward issues.
He mentioned that conflicting judgments of various divisions of the Appeal Court were not only undesirable but the result might manifest in a miscarriage of justice and ultimately loss of public confidence in the judiciary.
He said: “Conflicting judgments also lead to accusations of improper considerations and corrupt practices. I need not remind us of the corrosive effect that this has had on the judiciary and its estimation in the eyes of the public.”
However, a former CJN, Justice Alfa Belgore, who was the chairman of the occasion, said Appeal Court justices should not be afraid of giving conflicting judgments as the Supreme Court was there to correct their mistakes.
Belgore mentioned that Nigeria would collapse if the judiciary fails.
He said that out of the three arms of government, only the judiciary was stable as both the executive and the legislature were subject to constant changes.
He said the role of the judiciary was central to the very survival and sustenance of the nation’s democracy.
While warning judges to avoid associating with politicians, the CJN said the need to avoid political associations had become even more evident considering the present political atmosphere and the intense preparation for the 2015 general election.
He said courts would once again be called upon to adjudicate on so many electoral disputes.
He, however, expressed regret that members of the public increasingly criticised judges for allegedly playing into the hands of politicians.
He described as unfortunate, the perceptions, connotations and insinuations that are readily drawn from these critics.
He said: “It is immaterial whether or not this assessment is fair, for Judges we must be seen to rise above the tide of systemic corruption and other unfortunate afflictions that have become commonplace in Nigeria today.”
According to him, the dignity and credibility of the judiciary was not in any way tainted on account of any suspicion.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, in her welcome address, identified poor financing and low budget as the major challenge to the smooth operations of the court
According to her, despite the increase in the number of divisions of the court and the appointment of additional 25 justices for the court, there was no increase in the court’s budget in 2014.
A lecture was delivered by Sir Maurice Ralph Kay, Vice-President, Court of Appeal, United Kingdom, on the importance of the judiciary in a democratic environment.
Those present at the judges annual conference included the CJN, the Vice-President of the UK Court of Appeal, the President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr. Andrew Pocock and virtually all the justices of the Court of Appeal.