Justice Walter Onnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), admonished judges to be wary of the antics of politicians as Nigeria prepares for elections 2019.
Speaking in Abuja while declaring open this year’s Annual Conference of Justices of Court of Appeal, the CJN said, “Soon the tempo of political activities will pick up for elections 2019.”
He urged judges to be wary of the company they keep, warning that politicians, in their desperation to have their ways, could ridicule and embarrass judicial officers who opened their doors to all comers.
The CJN warned, “Let me remind us that our salvation remains in our hands; so, in the approaching frenzied political activities leading to elections 2019, let us continue to watch the company we keep, the people we open our doors to, lest we unwittingly open ourselves to ridicule and embarrassment as the politicians will do anything, not necessarily legal, to have their way, including destroying our hard-earned reputation and integrity.”
The CJN who said he was desirous of leaving behind “a judiciary that has been returned to its glory as a noble and enviable institution in every sense of the word”, added, “Your level of preparation, coupled with the determination of Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, to bequeath to Nigeria a legacy of credible election process, will guarantee the peace and stability we all desire.”
He added, “On judicial precedents as they relate to election and pre-election matters, I want to remind us that the Supreme Court has decided in a number of cases that the principles of judicial review such as Mandamus, Certiorari, and Prohibition etc do not apply because election and election-related matters, such as pre-election causes, are suis generis.
“There is an emerging trend whereby a party in a pre-election or election matter, after exhausting his remedies sometimes up to the Supreme Court still pursues a parallel cause of action under the guise of judicial review hoping that one of such parallel actions may succeed, thereby making the court to contradict itself, resulting in a great embarrassment to the system.”
He noted that failure of judges, especially in the courts lower than the Supreme Court, to adhere to the principle often led to “much injustice.”
He also urged the judges not to allow lawyers to mislead them to the embarrassment of the judiciary.
He said, “I am saying these because soon the tempo of political activities will pick up and some lawyers will stop at nothing in their effort to outsmart the Bench; so be very careful and as I have always said, be on top of your game by mastering the principles of laws and facts relevant to the case or issues involved in the dispute so as not to allow legal practitioners to mislead you to the embarrassment of the judiciary.”
In her address, the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, said that during the 2016/2017 legal year, “a pragmatic framework was set as an indicator to clear the backlog of appeals in 16 judicial divisions of the Court of Appeal”.
She said, “The extraordinary feat by my brother Justices in all the 16 divisions of the court has recorded 3,001 judgments as well as 6,963 motions”.