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Nigeria @ 62: Not yet Uhuru for judiciary, say Magistrate, lawyers

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 An Owerri based Magistrate Mrs Uzoamaka Onyirioha and some lawyers in Abia have X rayed developments in the country s judiciary since independence with a verdict that it is not yet Uhuru They spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria in Owerri and Umuahia They examined how the judiciary arm of government had fared in the country s development process since independence on Oct 1 1960 Onyirioha said that the independence of the judiciary had remained a mirage with successive governments paying lipservice to its realisation She said that the judiciary needs financial autonomy to operate freely without interferences from the executive Unfortunately this has not been so in this country since we gained our independence The fact that the executive still determines the pay for judges makes the independence of the judiciary a mirage The situation gives rise to the maxim which says that he who pays the piper calls the tune Onyirioha said She regretted that the position of the judiciary in Nigeria had become delicate According to her today the judiciary has become the sacrificial lamb bearing the brunt of societal imperfections and contradictions For instance when elections go wrong it is the judiciary that is called upon to decide who actually won Again when the nation s treasury is looted it is the judges that are called upon to hold the tribunals to make inquiry In this circumstance the judiciary is in a no win situation Often the party that loses readily casts aspersions on the integrity of the presiding justices Onyirioha said She underscored the need to safeguard judicial independence in the country She said that an independent effective and incorruptible judiciary fosters happiness orderliness and enabling environment for social development The magistrate said that the judiciary occupies strategic position and plays a vital role as the bastion of an enduring democracy That notwithstanding she said the judiciary still operates under the whims and caprices of the executive arm She said In Nigeria judges who are expected to hand down judgments without fear or favour are left at the mercy of the executive As we all know government sometimes uses its agencies to harass and intimidate judges Onyirioha therefore requested that the integrity of the judicial system be protected through fair remuneration transparent procedures for assigning matters to judges and asset declaration She further advocated for the adoption of a judicial code of conduct which should be effectively monitored by an independent inspectorate Also an Umuahia based rights lawyer Mr Enyinnaya Onwumere said that it was not yet Uhuru for the judiciary 62 years after independence Onwumere regretted that persistent calls for the independence of the judiciary in the country had continued to fall on deaf ears He said that the executive arm was still calling the shots adding that governors appoint their friends and cronies into the bench He further expressed concern over the rampant cases of executive lawlessness and flagrant abuse of the rule of law He said that instances abound concerning the excesses of security agencies in total disregard to the rule of law He accused security agencies of wanton abuse of people s rights saying that most times people are randomly arrested and detained without any arraignment In Nigeria the executive and security agencies chose which law or court order to obey Onwumere said He therefore expressed the need for conscious and deliberate effort by stakeholders to sensitise Nigerians on the imperatives of the rule of law He said In recent time our obedience to the rule of law has nosedived because the executive does not see the need So something needs to be done to promote the rule of law and save our judiciary Mrs Uche Nwokocha the Abia Coordinator National Human Rights Commission expressed concern over the alleged rot in the country s judiciary Nwokocha listed some of the drawbacks in the sector including unnecessary delay of cases She argued that the situation amounts to denying people access to justice since justice delayed is justice denied She however attributed such delays to manifest deficiencies in the system According to her judges are being overworked resulting in the delays of cases She therefore advocated that judges should specialise in different areas of jurisprudence She said It does not augur well for a particular judge to hear criminal civil and miscellaneous matters The courts are getting more clustered because more people are becoming aware of their rights I think that we need to have more and more judges and we need to specialise Nwokocha said NewsSourceCredit NAN
Nigeria @ 62: Not yet Uhuru for judiciary, say Magistrate, lawyers

Uzoamaka Onyirioha

An Owerri-based Magistrate, Mrs Uzoamaka Onyirioha, and some lawyers in Abia have X-rayed developments in the country’s judiciary since independence with a verdict that it is not yet Uhuru.

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They spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria in Owerri and Umuahia.

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They examined how the judiciary arm of government had fared in the country’s development process since independence on Oct. 1, 1960.
Onyirioha said that the independence of the judiciary had remained a mirage, with successive governments paying lipservice to its realisation.

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She said that the judiciary needs financial autonomy to operate freely without interferences from the executive.

“Unfortunately, this has not been so in this country since we gained our independence.

“The fact that the executive still determines the pay for judges, makes the independence of the judiciary a mirage.

“The situation gives rise to the maxim, which says that ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’,” Onyirioha said.

She regretted that the position of the judiciary in Nigeria had become delicate.

According to her, today, the judiciary has become the sacrificial lamb, bearing the brunt of societal imperfections and contradictions.

“For instance, when elections go wrong, it is the judiciary that is called upon to decide who actually won.

“Again, when the nation’s treasury is looted, it is the judges that are called upon to hold the tribunals to make inquiry.

“In this circumstance, the judiciary is in a no-win situation.

“Often, the party that loses, readily casts aspersions on the integrity of the presiding justices,” Onyirioha said.

She underscored the need to safeguard judicial independence in the country.

She said that an independent, effective and incorruptible judiciary fosters happiness, orderliness and enabling environment for social development.

The magistrate said that the judiciary occupies strategic position and plays a vital role as the bastion of an enduring democracy.

That notwithstanding, she said, the judiciary still operates under the whims and caprices of the executive arm.

She said: “In Nigeria, judges who are expected to hand down judgments without fear or favour are left at the mercy of the executive.

“As we all know, government sometimes uses its agencies to harass and intimidate judges.


Onyirioha, therefore, requested that the integrity of the judicial system be protected through fair remuneration, transparent procedures for assigning matters to judges and asset declaration.

She further advocated for the adoption of a judicial code of conduct, which should be effectively monitored by an independent inspectorate.

Enyinnaya Onwumere

Also, an Umuahia-based rights lawyer, Mr Enyinnaya Onwumere, said that it was not yet Uhuru for the judiciary, 62 years after independence.

Onwumere regretted that persistent calls for the independence of the judiciary in the country had continued to fall on deaf ears.

He said that the executive arm was still calling the shots, adding that governors appoint their friends and cronies into the bench.

He further expressed concern over the rampant cases of executive lawlessness and flagrant abuse of the rule of law.

He said that instances abound concerning the excesses of security agencies in total disregard to the rule of law.

He accused security agencies of wanton abuse of people’s rights, saying that most times, people are randomly arrested and detained without any arraignment.

“In Nigeria, the executive and security agencies chose which law or court order to obey,” Onwumere said.

He, therefore, expressed the need for conscious and deliberate effort by stakeholders to sensitise Nigerians on the imperatives of the rule of law.

He said: “In recent time, our obedience to the rule of law has nosedived because the executive does not see the need.

“So, something needs to be done to promote the rule of law and save our judiciary.

Uche Nwokocha

Mrs Uche Nwokocha, the Abia Coordinator, National Human Rights Commission, expressed concern over the alleged rot in the country’s judiciary.

Nwokocha listed some of the drawbacks in the sector, including unnecessary delay of cases.

She argued that the situation amounts to denying people access to justice, since “justice delayed is justice denied”.

She, however, attributed such delays to manifest deficiencies in the system.

According to her, judges are being overworked, resulting in the delays of cases.

She, therefore, advocated that judges should specialise in different areas of jurisprudence.

She said: “It does not augur well for a particular judge to hear criminal, civil and miscellaneous matters.

“The courts are getting more clustered because more people are becoming aware of their rights.

“I think that we need to have more and more judges and we need to specialise,” Nwokocha said.

NewsSourceCredit: NAN

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