Judiciary’s Independence Is Non-negotiable – Acting CJN

Judiciary’s Independence Is Non-negotiable – Acting CJN

Judiciary’s Independence Is Non-negotiable – Acting CJN

The acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, (CJN), Ibrahim Tanko, on Monday said the independence of the judiciary should be guarded jealously even as the general polls approach.

Mr Tanko, whose controversial appointment is still raising dust in the polity, said the judiciary must also be allowed to function unhindered.

Mr Tanko was appointed in an acting capacity by President Muhammadu Buhari in the midst of allegations of failure to declare assets levelled against the now suspended substantive CJN, Walter Onnoghen.

Mr Buhari said he relied on a ruling by the Code of Conduct Tribunal asking that the embattled official should be suspended despite a stay of action ruling granted by an appeal court.

The action has drawn the ire of Nigerians and some western nations who are appalled that Mr Buhari ignored a constitutional provision which stipulated the mandatory role of the National Assembly and the National Judicial Council in the removal of the top judicial officer.

“It is important that the Judiciary must have absolute independence,” Mr Tanko said Monday. “Judges should handle election petitions without any external pressure or influence either by political parties, stakeholders or economic interest groups. The Judiciary must continue to take steps to ensure that It is not seen as being partisan.”

The official spoke at an event organised by the Independent Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for election tribunal judges on Monday which deliberated on election matters.

The ongoing two-day workshop, organised by INEC is taking place at the Andrews Otutu Obaseki Auditorium, National Judicial Institute, Abuja.

The INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu was represented by May Agbamuche while Mr Tanko was represented by Zainab Bulkachuwa.

Both the INEC chairman and the acting CJN agreed elections are governed by legislation and multiple court judgment reduces the confidence of the people in INEC and the judiciary.

The acting CJN said the procedure of conducting elections comes with numerous challenges.

He said the workshop will present participants the opportunity to discuss and find a common course towards addressing the challenges which judges face while serving on election petition tribunals.

“This workshop is a unique opportunity to deliberate and agree on the basic tenets and guiding principles as well as ensuring quick dispensation of electoral matters,” he explained.

He also said election litigation is an inevitable part of the electoral process.

“INEC has the responsibility to conduct and manage elections, the Judiciary on its part is charged with the responsibility of resolving issues arising from the process,” he added.
He also said the present electoral system is fraught with challenges which include (controversial) party nomination, substitution of candidates, late conduct of party primaries amongstothers.

“This poses the need for participants in this workshop to be constantly equipped with the rudiments of the law to enable them accomplish their task with the desired efficiency and competence.”

He also said these will help arrive at well-researched judgments and modalities to reduce the spate of conflicting judgments emanating from courts.

He urged judges to guard their integrity and the integrity of the judiciary, by avoiding acts that will bring them under the disciplinary jurisdiction of the NJC.

The NJC according to him will not hesitate to “wield the big stick of sanctions” on any judicial officer who is found wanting in the discharge of his/her duties.

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