Our Judiciary must be free

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The Chief Justice of Nigerian, Tanko Mohammed, unwittingly contradicted himself in addressing the vexed issue of freedom of the Judiciary arm of government at the commencement of this year’s Legal Year of the Supreme Court, during which 38 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, were inaugurated. Justice Tanko Mohammed, CJN, SANs While affirming that the Supreme Court which he heads is independent in the ways judges conduct their affairs, especially in their judgements, he admitted that their annual budgets are far below their needs and he often has to “beg” for their funds to be released. The question is, how can you be “free” when you are starved of funds and even at that, you have to beg another arm of government before your money is released? We do not agree with the CJN that the Supreme Court or any other level of the Judiciary is free enough. Whoever pays the piper calls the tune. So long as the Judiciary is made to suffer the impunity of fund starvation by the Executive inherited from the military, the Judiciary can never be free. Secondly, for as long as the President of Nigeria is allowed the audacity he displayed in the removal of former CJN Walter Onnoghen and the appointment of Justice Mohammed, the Judiciary is still a lapdog of the Executive. Also read: Tribunal: Judiciary now delivering free, fair, and credible judgments ―Yoruba youths This is totally against the 1999 Constitution which affirms the separation of powers and checks and balances among the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. Even the method by which the administration was able to bully judges by sending security operatives at night to search their homes instead of allowing the National Judicial Council, NJC, to handle their cases through laid-down procedures, was capable of cowing many judicial officers and hinder their ability to effectively dispense justice. There is no free Judiciary without financial independence. The Judiciary must be allowed to create and defend its budget at the Legislature, and once it is assented to by the President or Governor, their funds must go directly to them. If the National Assembly had to “beg” the Presidency for its funds, our democracy would have died at birth. The importance of a free and responsive judicial and law enforcement systems cannot be overplayed. If the citizens of a country believe they can obtain justice timeously through the law enforcement agencies and the courts, they would follow the rule of law. But because the legal and law enforcement systems are comatose, jungle justice is rife. People turn to the shrines instead of the courts. In fact, the root of Boko Haram is injustice and the failure of law enforcement. In South Africa, xenophobia is also linked to failure in the judicial and law enforcement systems. Our Judiciary must be free.

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