The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen has said that the judiciary needs knowledgeable men of honour and integrity to deal with executive recklessness, adding that it is one of the available recourse against the abuse of executive power and interpretation of law.
Onnoghen stated this yesterday, at the first bi-annual lecture of the Lagos State Judiciary with the theme: “Judicial standards, integrity, respect and public perception: A comparative analysis from independence to the present millennium.”
Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour of the Supreme Court of Nigeria who represented the CJN said that appointments of judges have become highly politicised as a governor of a state will not approve the names of persons nominated for the bench for the NJC scrutiny if the names of his candidates are not included on that list.
He lamented that the system of making appointment to the judiciary, which the country inherited from Britain is such that the whole of the judiciary is dependent upon practising lawyers for its personnel.
To restore integrity in the judiciary, the system of training lawyers in the universities should be reviewed.
He therefore suggested that law be made a second degree course in the universities, adding that it will help reduce the current influx of young people into the faculties of law across the country and in turn help produce more matured mind who truly desire to be lawyers.
He further suggested that lawyers desirous of appointment to the bench should in addition to the ten years post call requirement have a post graduate degree in law in order to “sharpen their intellect and widen the educational horizon of the lawyers and of course, the future Judges.
“We cannot build a strong judiciary from a weak bar. A situation where our current law undergraduates cannot take notes nor write exams with a good command of English language is regrettable.’’
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who was chairman of the lecture said in view of the strategic role occupied by judicial officers in the country, it was important for them to be always above board and uphold ethical standards.
Osinbajo, who was represented by Special Assistant to the President on Economic and Finanacial Crimes, Mr. Biodun Aikomo, noted that “Judges must be beyond reproach; they must be above board; abide by ethics and standards of the profession and dispense justice rightly.”
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode remarked that the major reforms being implemented in both judiciary and security sectors in the state were targeted at creating a sound pedestal for residents to be productive and in turn boost the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the state.
Lagos Chief Judge, Justice Opeyemi Oke lauded the governor for supporting the reforms, describing him as a man of vision who is known for pursuit of excellence and international best standards in every area of his administration.
Justice Oke said the present administration in the judiciary is desirous of implementing reforms that would improve the administration of justice in the state and set pace for other states.
She reeled out some of the reforms being implementing to include judicial ethics and administration, old cases above 20 years elimination programme, designation of special offences court, sexual offences court, small claims court, child rights law and regulations, prison decongestion effort, among others.