The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, has called on the incoming governors who are to be inaugurated on May 29 to ensure the implementation of constitutional provisions on the financial autonomy of the judiciary.
Justice Mohammed made this call in Abuja on Monday at the opening ceremony of the national workshop for magistrates on judicial ethics and corrupt practices organised.
The event which was organised by the National Judicial Institute, was with the theme, ‘Promoting integrity and transparency in the magistrates courts’.
The CJN, who is also the Chairman, Board of Governors of NJI, was represented by a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Walter Onoghen.
He said failure of incumbent governors to implement the relevant constitutional provisions on the financial autonomy of the judiciary was the cause of financial insecurity hampering magistrates from effectively discharging their responsibilities.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a Federal High Court in Abuja had on January 13, 2014, ordered the Accountant-General of the Federation to implement the constitutional provisions by deducting funds standing to the credit of the judiciary of each state in the federation account and remit same to the National Judicial Council for onward disbursement to the various heads of court.
Justice Mohammed said on Monday that financial insecurity was the worst enemy of the judiciary as it exposed magistrates “to some corrupt and ignoble practices.”
He said, “These ugly scenarios are occasioned by the refusal of some State Chief Executives to obey the Constitution and give to your heads of Court what belongs to the Judiciary of your State.
“Without proper funding, no head of court can perform magic. 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. This must be avoided by all means. The Magistrate must be adequately encouraged to discharge his duties without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”
The CJN, who described the magistrates as the gateway to the Nigerian judiciary, said some of the allegations of corruption leveled against the nation’s judiciary “emanated from the activities of Magistrates and other lower Court Judges.”
He added, “I am not unmindful of the hardship many of you are going through. I am aware that some of you sit in town halls and other unsuitable venues.
“Many of you live in rented apartments with co-tenants some of whom may be or become litigants in your courts. The security of your lives and properties are very porous.
“Many of you have been attacked by hoodlums. Some have been kidnapped and huge ransoms demanded from their families. Some have even been killed by assassins. All these make the condition of your work so bad and challenging.”
The CJN however warned that “the hardship being faced by the magistrates” should never be the reason for indulging in corrupt practices.
“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,” he said.
Administrator of the NJI, Justice Rosaline Bozimo (retd), said the workshop would help the participants to understand “problematic areas in terms of practice and procedure.”