Buhari laments public image of Nigerian judiciary, urges urgent reform
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday lamented the bad public perception of the Nigerian judiciary as corrupt, warning that it portends grave danger for the country’s fledgling democracy and called for an urgent cleansing of the sector.
Speaking at the 2015 All Nigeria Judges Conference organised by the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Abuja, Buhari, who was represented by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo (SAN), observed that in recent years allegations of judicial corruption have become more robust and frequent.
“Unfortunately in recent years perhaps more than ever before allegations of judicial corruption have become more strident and frequent. Some of the available surveys on public perception of judiciary clearly show that the judiciary is losing the trust and esteem of the Nigerian populace,” the President lamented.
He warned that, “this is dangerous indeed for our fledgling democracy. Democracy and the fundamental freedoms, rights and assurances for the protection of private and public rights rely entirely on a judiciary whose integrity is unimpeachable.”
“In matters of integrity, it is clear that reputation or perception is as important if not more important than reality”, he added.
Speaking further on the negative perception of Nigerian judiciary, “there is both local and international dissatisfaction with the long delays in the trial process. In the past few years, this has become especially so for high profile cases of corruption especially where they involve serving or former political office holders. As my Lords are undoubtedly aware, corruption transfers from public coffers to private pockets, resources required to deliver social and economic justice.”
The President lamented that, “government’s attempts to recover such assets in accordance with the law are often faced with dilatory tactics by lawyer sometimes with the apparent collusion of judges. These tactics are often not directed at reaching any conclusion or affirming innocence or guilt, but at stalling trials indefinitely, thus denying the state and the accused the opportunity of a judicial verdict.”
He said he shared the sentiments of the vast majority of Nigerians in saying that, “we cannot afford to continue on this path” and charged the judiciary to “play its role in ensuring that its internal processes are promptly improved and made ready to expedite trials.”