President Muhammadu Buhari has said that strict adherence to the rule of law was crucial to the survival of democracy.
The president spoke while declaring open the 2017 All Nigerian Judges’ Conference, organized by the National Judicial Institute (NJI).
Reiterating his administration’s commitment to upholding the rule of law, he stated that his government increased allocation to the judiciary from N70 billion to N100 billion in the 2017 budget and that a similar figure has been proposed for 2018.
The president described the theme:” Strengthening Judicial Integrity and the Rule of Law,’’ as apt, stressing that the prime purpose of any government should be to regulate social relations within its territorial jurisdiction.
He insisted that without the rule of law, government would degenerate into dictatorship or anarchy.
According to him, the theme was in line with his government’s resolve to strengthen the three arms of government to effectively fulfill their constitutional obligations.
He however hinted the judiciary of public’s expectations, which regrettably, some have not been met.
“For the judiciary, the public expects fairness, impartiality and speed in the administration of justice.
“Regrettably, court cases can drag on for years and years, sometimes decades without resolution. I need only mention land cases in Lagos to illustrate my point,” he stated.
He also cited huge backlogs of cases waiting to be dispensed especially at the appellate levels, but however believed that the ongoing reform in the judiciary will eliminate the seemingly endless delays in settling ‘simple cases’.
The President further assured that previous action taken by the executive against the judiciary was in no way a prelude to usurping the powers of the National Judicial Council or aimed at intimidating the Judiciary as wrongly portrayed in some sections of the media.
In his address, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, charged the executive to always obey judgement of court as such will boost the confidence reposed in the judiciary.
The CJN however noted that a corrupt Judge is not only a disgrace to the Bench and the noble profession, but also a disaster to the course of justice and the nation.
“The designation of courts to handle corruption cases is also a step in the right direction as lingering corruption cases will be expeditiously dispensed with. It should no longer be business as usual.
“I believe the stream of justice must be kept pure and free at all times from poisonous contamination.’’
Justice Onnoghen further called on heads of various courts to pay close attention to the activities of the lower courts within their jurisdiction, adding that proper supervision and feedback mechanisms are imperative if the judiciary must succeed.
Earlier in her welcome speech, the Administrator of the Institute, Justice Rosaline Bozimo, noted that the conference is for stock taking for Justices and Judges of Superior Court of Record from all over the country, to converge and reflect upon the activities of the Judiciary with the benefit of hindsight and reflect on achievement and challenges of the judiciary.