The National Judicial Council has put in place a policy to curb the disclosure of petitions against judicial officers. The new policy will bar the media from reporting on details of such petitions until the council considers it right for such disclosures. The policy is coming at a time of intense public scrutiny of the regulatory body, following the arrest and investigation of several senior judges on allegations of corruption. Seven judges were arrested two weeks ago by operatives of the State Security Service. The NJC has been accused of not doing enough to stem judicial corruption. It has also been accused of not investigating petitions raised either by the public or security agencies.
The Nigeria Bar Association called for the suspension of the arrested judges, but the NJC said the suggestion was “unacceptable”. Under the new policy, petitioners willing to file complaints against judicial officers must first depose to an affidavit pledging that no content of such petitions would be made public, by them or by persons known to them. The council said it would discard any petition made public, even after investigations have already commenced.
“Where complaints on allegations against judicial officers and court employees are submitted for investigation, the complainant or complainants shall be made to give an undertaking not to do anything to prejudice investigation or actions that may be taken,” it said. “The institutions of the judiciary concerned with investigation or and implementation of decisions taken on such complaints shall be obliged to cease further action where such complaints are leaked or discussed in the media. “Where such a leakage is occasioned after the submission of a complaint then all investigations on the complaints shall be suspended, the leakage investigated and if such leakage is from the complainant on through other parties known to such a complainant, such a complaint should be discarded.
“Where such leakage is occasioned prior to the presentation of the complaint and the source of the leakage is found to be the complainant or through other parties known to and connected with the complainant then such complaint shall not be accepted, upon submission, by the appropriate disciplinary body,” the council said. The council further said it would only allow the publication of complaints after investigation had been concluded. “Upon the conclusion of any investigation, the judicial disciplinary bodies may allow public disclosure of their findings, subject to following the proper channels for such disclosure,” it said.