Just last week, the National Judicial Institute (NJI) hosted heads of courts to the maiden edition of its roundtable on speedy juicy delivery. KEHINDE OSASONA captured the proceedings.
In a bid to expand, improve and proffer solutions to the common challenges faced by courts in the various jurisdictions in Nigeria, the National Judicial Institute (NJI) put together recently, the 2019 maiden edition of roundtable for Heads of Courts in the country.
While the event lasted, topics bordering on independence of the Judiciary, speedy justice delivery and adherence to Code of Conduct by Judicial Officers were comprehensively discussed as a way of proffering solutions to array of challenges militating against court administration in the country.
The roundtable which was designed by the education committee of the National Judicial Institute was aimed at equipping and strengthening the administrative capacity of the heads of courts with requisite administrative skills for effective justice delivery.
A caveat from the acting CJN
Delivering his keynote address at the occasion, the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad tasked heads of courts on fair and speedy justice delivery. He also called on them to improve the quality of justice delivery in the courts in order to promote confidence in the judicial system.
According to Muhammed, who was represented by the President of the National Industrial Court (NIC), Justice Babatunde Adejumo, it was to that effect that the National Judicial Policy was formulated by the NJC in 2016.
He said, “The policy reiterates that strategies shall be put in place to achieve the goals of judicial administration vis-à-vis the inherent power in the courts under Section 6(6) of the 1999 constitution.
“The policy directs heads of each judiciary to establish an efficient court- management structure that will provide tools and support services in order to ensure high performance, productivity, speedy and fair administration of justice which will not influence on the independence of the judiciary.
Continued, he said, “There should be a tireless commitment to improving the quality of justice delivery in the courts. To this end, you should painstakingly make efforts to improve the process of your courts in ways that promote confidence in the judicial system and reflect the philosophy taught us by our founding fathers -Work hard, treat people fairly, and the rest will take care of itself,” he said.
Judicial independence is key
Muhammad submitted that judicial independence encompasses not only control and authority over the legal decisions devoid of external influences, but also an array of administrative powers of courts and judicial institutions.
“This includes authority over budgeting, information technology, human resources, allocation of judicial services, supply chain management, judicial selection, retentions, assignment as well as the education and training of judges and their support staff,” the acting CJN said.
Muhammad therefore expressed the belief that the Presidential Implementation Committee on Autonomy of State Judiciary and Legislature will come up with recommendations that will bring about the full implementation of section 161 of the Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution (As amended).
Consequently, he accordingly called on each jurisdiction in the country’s judiciary to aspire to implement the guidelines provided by the Judicial Information Technology Policy (JITPO), adding that: “There should be a tireless commitment to improving the quality of justice delivery in courts.
“To this end, you should painstakingly make efforts to improve the process of your courts in ways that will promote confidence in the judicial system. Work hard, treat people fairly and the rest will take care of itself.”
The acting CJN, noted further that for the courts to be efficient in the discharge of their functions, there must be an effective court management system.
But in actualizing the vision they set out to achieve in the long run, the Administrator of the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Justice Rosaline Bozimo, in a welcome address charged heads of court to use wisdom, intelligence and perseverance in handling situations first as heads of administration and second, as judicial officers. He stressed further the need for heads of courts to provide a conducive environment for it.
She further admonished participants to provide excellent judicial services speedily, saying they must be just in their decisions in other to remain relevant in the ever-changing judicial landscape.
Explaining further on the necessity of the roundtable, she said it was to among other things, avail heads of courts the opportunity to exchange ideas and proffer solutions to the common challenges facing various jurisdictions.
“The position of head of court comes with enormous challenges. Therefore, one must use wisdom, intelligence and, above all, perseverance in handling situations first as heads of administration and second as a Judicial Officer, as heads of the courts, establishing a clear vision and sharing it with other Judicial officers and court Staff is key to successful running of the courts” he emphasized.
In furtherance of the quest, Bozimo admonished heads of Courts to provide a conducive environment for the actualization of the vision they set out to achieve, notwithstanding the challenges they may encounter in the process.
“The much-needed coordination and balance of all conflicting interests of stakeholders must be taken into considerations. This, undoubtedly, requires leadership skills, which this forum seeks to harness
“To remain relevant in this ever-changing judicial landscape, the courts must provide excellent judicial services efficiently, speedily and must be just in its decisions which should be devoid of any external influence or compromise. To this end, the Heads of Courts must ensure that all Judicial Officers and Court Staff adhere strictly to their respective Code of Conduct” Bozimo added.
Reviewing Judicial operation: A reminiscence
In 2017, when he inaugurated a 13-man steering committee on judiciary reform, Justice Onnoghen it would be recalled had reiterated the need for a holistic review of the operations of the nation’s judiciary”
He then mandated the committee to call for memoranda from former Chief Justices of Nigeria, Presidents of the Court of Appeal, Chief Registrars, “and other stakeholders on the way forward.”
The committee which was headed by the Secretary of the National Judicial Service Commission, Mrs. Bilkisu Bashir, was tasked “to coordinate a comprehensive reform of the country’s judiciary.
“Other members of the 13-member committee include directors of administration from the Federal Judicial Service Commission, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the National Judicial Council, Federal High Court, Court of Appeal, Sharia Court of Appeal, Customary Court of Appeal, Federal Capital Territory High Court, National Industrial Court and the President of the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria,” the statement added.
While inaugurating the committee in Abuja, the CJN was quoted to have said: “There was a need for a holistic review of the operations of the nation’s judiciary”
The CJN observed further that the judiciary had been stagnated for years while the other arms of government continue to undergo reforms.
Onnoghen was quoted as having said, “You will agree with me that over time, the judiciary, due to its conservative nature, had stagnated in its operations while the other arms of government have continued to undergo reforms. “It is now more urgent than ever to undertake a holistic reform of the judiciary.”
Regaining public confidence
But in regaining public confidence in the judiciary which is adjudged to be the last hope of the common man, it would not be out place to in the word of the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammed, charge judges in the country to exhibit a tireless commitment to improving the quality of justice delivery in the country.