The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, on Monday in Abuja urged state governors in the country to ensure that the judiciary arm of government in their states were properly funded in order to stem judicial corruption.
Mohammed made the call in a keynote address at the opening ceremony of a national workshop for magistrates on judicial ethics and corrupt practices held at the National Judicial Institute (NJI).
The theme of the Workshop is: “Promoting Integrity and Transparency in the Magistrates Courts”.
The CJN noted that by breaching the constitutional provision for financial autonomy, which is aimed at guaranteeing proper funding of the judiciary, no head of court can perform magic.
He said that lack of proper funding could result in financial insecurity for judicial officers like magistrates, who may be inadvertently exposed to judicial corruption.
The CJN said: “It is on this note that I call upon all the State Chief Executives, including those that will be coming on board on 29th of May 2015 that they should please respect and obey the Constitution they have sworn to uphold.
“All the funds appropriated to the State Judiciary should be promptly released to Heads of Courts so that they can function effectively.
“When the Magistrates feel unsecured by the government, they are tempted to provide the security themselves.
“Financial insecurity is the worst because it exposes the Magistrates to some corrupt and ignoble practices.’’
Mahmud also noted that the theme of the workshop was instructive as it was designed to acquaint the Magistrates on the need to imbibe and exhibit utmost integrity and transparency in the discharge of their duties.
He said the aim of the workshop was to principally re-focus the magistrates and awaken them to their responsibilities as Judicial Officers in addition to keeping them abreast of current trends in Justice Administration.
This, he noted, was tailored to highlight the basic principles of judicial ethics visa-a-vis corrupt practices that portray the Judiciary in bad light.
“The Nigerian Judiciary has often times been castigated and maligned for being corrupt. Some of these allegations emanate from the activities of Magistrates who constitute the gateway to the Nigerian Judiciary.
“In a democratic setting such as ours, the ultimate goal of any government and indeed the judiciary is the provision of enabling environment that will facilitate an un-impeded access to justice and the substance of the framework that will preserve the Rule of Law,’’ he said.
The CJN further expressed dismay over the issue of delay in disposal of cases in courts and urged them to ensure speedy disposal of cases through the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Systems as a solution.
He said that the elimination of all forms of corrupt practices helps in the speedy dispensation of cases in the courts, and restores the peoples’ confidence in the Judiciary.
While acknowledging the challenging operational environment in which judicial officers were operating, Mohammed said such should never be the reason for indulging in unwholesome conducts.
Mahmud said: “Any erring Magistrate will be properly disciplined. But if you carry out your duties very effectively and diligently, your reward surely awaits you. Your destiny is in your own hands.
“Many past Chief Justices of Nigeria started as Magistrates just like you. If they could make it to the top, why not you? All that is required is honesty, hard work and integrity. If you possess all these, then you are ready to fly,’’ the CJN admonished.