By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, has warned that the judiciary would no longer condone any form of disobedience to court orders in the country.
Justice Muhammad said obedience to lawful court orders had no alternative in any sane society, adding, “A threat to this is simply a call to anarchy.
The head of the nation’s judicial arm of government, lamented that some individuals had found please in invading courtrooms and assaulting judges.
Justice Muhammad who was represented by the second most senior justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, spoke in Abuja on Monday at the special session of the apex court to mark the commencement of the 2020/2021 legal year and swearing-in of newly conferred Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
He cautioned that unscrupulous persons who unleash violence on judges must be jailed.
“The correctional centres are not there for decoration, such literally incorrigible and obstinate elements in our midst must be tutored in those centres to deter the several others eagerly waiting in the queue to embark on such inglorious expedition. The court will not only bark but will bite harder and deeper too,” the CJN warned.
Justice Muhammad pledged the judiciary’s commitment to fast-track trials at all levels of court, particularly those bordering on corruption, kidnapping and terrorism among others.
Speaking on the welfare of judicial officers, the CJN said, “The paltry sum of money being collected as monthly salaries is an issue that needs urgent redress. The annual budget has been on a steady decline; and that has adversely affected the state of infrastructure in our courts.
While congratulating the 72 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria on the elevation to the prestigious rank, the CJN decried the unprofessional conduct of some lawyers whom he accused of turning court premises to press interview centres where they cast all manner of aspersions on judicial officers, especially when judgement don’t favour them.
“Severe sanctions will henceforth be meted out to any unprofessional conduct exhibited by such persons.”
On his part, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olumide Akpata said the National Judicial Council (NJC) must intensify efforts to cleanse the judiciary of corruption.
Quoting from a recently released report credited to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission titled: “Nigeria Corruption Index: Report of a Pilot Survey,” the NBA President said the report ranked the judiciary at the top of the Nigerian corruption index between 2018 and 2020, adding that over N9 billion was offered or demanded and paid as bribe to judges by lawyers in the country.
Mr. Akpata called for stiffer sanctions against lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits, saying, “It is my conviction that the award of substantial costs will go a long way towards reducing the incidence of frivolous cases.”
Prominent among the newly conferred SANS are: a former General Secretary of the NBA, Mazi Afam Osigwue; ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owansoye and the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Uwemedimo Thomas Nwoko.