The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, has charged judicial officers to stem the tide of conflicting judgments from the Court of Appeal.
He urged the judges to check the trend, adding that it is becoming worrisome.
“I must equally urge us to look inward as justices of the Appellate Courts, considering the fact that the rate of conflicting judgements churned out from the Court of Appeal is worrisome,” he said, stressing that it has become imperative to curtail it even as the election year approaches.
The CJN also expressed concern over the challenges of inconvenient courtrooms as well as the lack of basic resources being faced by judges in the country to ensure optimal performance.
This, he noted, has forced judiciaries at state levels to go cap-in-hand to various state governors to solicit funds to run their courts, thus contradicting the constitutional principle of Separation of Power.
The CJN who doubles as the chairman, of the Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute, bared his mind at the opening of a three-day retreat for justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal held at the Ibom Icon Hotels and Golf Resort, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital.
He reminded judicial officers of the ethical challenges they are exposed to, saying judicial officers are being held to the highest standards of professional and personal conduct.
“My Lords are therefore enjoined to uphold the integrity of the judiciary by complying with the code of conduct as the drawbacks for non-compliance can be grave,” he said.
He expressed optimism that the retreat organised by the Attorney General Alliance Africa (AGA Africa) in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute (NJI) would discuss issues which cross-pollinate ideas to proffer strategies for the way forward.
Justice Ariwoola praised AGA Africa under the leadership of executive director, Karen White, director, Marcus Green and their team for organising the retreat in collaboration with the NJI under the leadership of Justice Salisu Garba Abdullhi.
In an opening remark, the director of AGA Africa, Mr Markus Green, said the retreat was timely as it discusses judicial reform that has been going on in recent months with regard to performance, accountability and efficiency.
As justices of the Supreme and Appeal Courts, Green said they play a vital role in maintaining peace and prosperity within a country by adjudicating conflicts in accordance with the constitution and the law.
“You also play an important role of guiding all lower courts in the interpretation and enforcement of the rule of law; ensuring that there is uniformity and discipline during the dispensation of judgments,” he stated.
Mr Green regretted that backlog of cases, slow uptake of technology, slow resolution of cases, lack of complete implementation of the law as well as lack of adequate resources or expertise, among other factors, slow down the process.
“The purpose of this retreat is to therefore provide you with an opportunity to rethink the judicial system, in line with international best practices, by dissecting the pitfalls that are standing in the way of its progress and proposing new approaches, with a view to building a more accessible and sound justice system that protects the rights of all persons.
“This is important if the judiciary’s hope to maintain public confidence in its integrity, impartially and efficiency must be realised.
“The court, its jurisdiction, procedures and operations, needs to be viewed through the eyes of ordinary court user, the litigant, the appellant and the respondent so that changes implemented can be done in a way that directly addresses their needs and expectations; improves justice outcomes and enhances the citizen’s confidence in the rule of law and courts.
“This aligned with the AGA Africa Programme’s own goal of supporting the rule of law and good governance through the strengthening of institutions in the law/justice sector in Africa.
“As such, AGA provides training in nine African countries – Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Nigeria, where we engage not only the judiciary but also other criminal justice actors, government, non-governmental organisation, the private sector, and civil society,” Green stated.
Declaring the retreat open, the Akwa Ibom State governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, called for the establishment of a permanent Court of Appeal in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State Capital.
The governor who was represented by his deputy, Mr Moses Ekpo, argued that setting up a permanent Court of Appeal in the state would allow for appeal cases emanating from Akwa Ibom to be heard in the state, thereby reducing the burden and risk of having to travel to other states for such hearing.
Earlier, the administrator of the National Judicial Institute, Justice Salisu Garba Abdullahi, had said that the retreat was borne out of the objective of availing justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal the opportunity to share with the participants their wealth of expertise and knowledge.
Besides granting participants access to such expertise, he said the forum will help strengthen their resolve to work towards achieving an efficient judiciary and effective discharge of their duties.
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