20 November 2017

Nigeria: Buhari Warns Judges Against Conflicting Judgments

Photo: The Guardian
(file photo).

President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the nation's judiciary to stop contradictory decisions of superior courts.

The president disclosed this at the National Judicial Institute in Abuja yesterday at the commencement of the 2017 All Nigeria Judges' Conference of the Superior Courts.

"Litigants expect that higher courts should endeavour to harmonize their rulings. There are contradictory decisions of superior courts on the same subject matter in cases where facts are substantially the same without a clear attempt in subsequent cases to distinguish the earlier cases. This lack of clarity leads to serious confusion to the lower courts," Buhari said.

The president stressed that the public expects fairness, impartiality and speed in the administration of justice from the judiciary.

He, however, regretted that "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. Furthermore, there are huge backlogs of cases waiting to be dispensed especially at the appellate levels."

He said the reform of the judiciary should start at eliminating these "seemingly endless delays in settling what to the layman are apparently simple cases.

"The knock-on efforts of these delays and discontinuities range from loss of confidence in the judicial system to over-crowding of prisons.

This is an area Your Lordships should pay close attention to in your efforts at reforming the system."

Buhari disclosed that last month, he wrote to all state governors urging them to make special visit to prisons in company with State Chief Judges and release prisoners unnecessarily detained without due process.

He said a democratic country like Nigeria cannot survive or prosper without strict adherence to the rule of law, saying "the prime purpose of any government is to regulate social relations within its territorial jurisdiction. Without the rule of law the government will degenerate into dictatorship or anarchy.'

The president said his administration required the close cooperation of other arms of government to succeed in combating graft and other forms of corruption so endemic in the national public life.

He assured that the investigation of the judiciary earlier this year by the executive 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."

The president stated that executive and legislative officials were also investigated.

He testified that the majority of judicial officers 'are learned and incorruptible and day in day out acting in the best spirit of their oath of office."

He said he was also quite aware of the problems besetting the judiciary including underfunding, inadequate personnel and absence of modern technological aids. "Bearing these in mind, this Administration increased allocation to the Judiciary from N70 billion to N100 billion in the 2017 budget. A similar figure has been proposed for 2018."

President Buhari assured of his administration's commitment to according the judiciary its constitutional rights.

"I therefore commend your recent decision to ask all judges at lower courts to provide you with a comprehensive list of all corruption and financial crimes in order to designate special courts to handle them. I support your action and the public is awaiting the results of this initiative."

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