The National Judicial Council has said it would probe judges involved in giving conflicting judgments which have embarrassed and ridiculed the nation’s judiciary in recent times.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, who doubles as the Chairman of the NJC, advised all judicial officers to ensure that they expedited the determination of all cases, especially criminal cases, by utilising the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and the 2013 Practice Directions on Serious Crimes, enacted to address delays in cases pertaining to serious crimes.
The CJN said these in Abuja during the special session of the Supreme Court to mark the commencement of the 2016/2017 Legal Year and the inauguration of 22 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria in Abuja on Monday.
He said that the judges involved were already under investigation.
The action of the NJC is coming on the heels of criticisms and petitions against some serving judges over alleged judicial misconduct.
Most of the conflicting judgments emanated from legal actions arising from the brewing leadership in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as the Abia governorship tussle.
Another example is the the Abia State governorship tussle between Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and another PDP contender, Dr. Uche Ogah.
The CJN stated that in line with the provisions of the constitution, the Judicial Discipline Regulations 2014 comprehensively sets out the procedure for making a complaint, disallowing interference from other arms of government.
The CJN was worried that the doctrine of stare decisis (decisions of courts) have been abandoned by judges who dished out conflicting decisions.
He was, particularly, pained by the fact that “several conflicting decisions were recklessly dished out by the Court of Appeal last year in appeals arising from various decisions of the election petition tribunals.
“Such decisions were made as the result of flagrant refusal of the panel’s of the Court of Appeal involved, to be bound, not only, by its own decision, but also by the decisions of this court.”
He further expressed displeasure with the trend where lawyers, litigants and members of the public who channel complaints against judicial officers through the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He said, “Let me state before the court starts that cases of courts of coordinate jurisdiction, giving conflicting judgments, will be addressed. All the judges involved are being investigated and actions will be taken against them accordingly.
“It is therefore of great concern and wonder of the growing trend of our lawyers, litigants and even members of the public routing complaints against judicial officers to the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“I am most dismayed that legal practitioners, who ought to better appreciate the need for the independence of their primary constituency, will engage in this misguided practice.
“This dangerous new trend has borne itself out in various complaints ranging from disparaging remarks against judges of our superior courts, to unprecedented, unwarranted and unfortunate personal attacks on judicial officers.
“I must admit that these cases were particularly distasteful and have been marked for action against the errant counsel by the LPDC.”.
The Chief Justice, who is due for retirement from the bench in November, also warned that the appointment of Chief Justice of Nigeria should not be politicised.
Accordingly, Justice Mohammed urged the judiciary to strenuously resist lobbyists from interfering with the appointments of a new Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Justice Mohammed further cautioned that allowing lobbyists interfere with the appointment will “undoubtedly and irreversibly hurt our justice system”
He added that Constitution is clear as to the procedure that must be followed in appointing a Justice of the Supreme Court or a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria and such must be adhered to in appointing the next Chief Justice after his tenure.