Judges Conference: Akpabio Pledges Action On Shortage Of Supreme Court Justices •••Seeks Judges’ Support For Anti-Graft Legislation

 

President of the Senate, Godswill O. Akpabio, has called for robust legislative measures to address corruption and breach of integrity within Nigeria’s justice system.

Senator Akpabio made the call while presenting a paper at the All Nigeria Judges’ Conference of Superior Courts, held in Abuja on Tuesday.

Speaking on the theme “Preventing Corruption and Breaches of Integrity in the Justice Sector: The Role of the Legislature”, he noted that the legislature has a duty to make laws that will curb eagerness towards corruption in the judiciary.

The Senate President lamented the drastic drop in the number of Supreme Court Justices below constitutional requirements and promised quick legislative action to address it.

He also highlighted some interventions being considered, such as stopping some appeals at the Court of Appeal from reaching the Supreme Court and expediting appointment of judges to cut down on delay in justice delivery.

Akpabio reiterated the determination of the 10th National Assembly to improving funding for the judiciary through appropriations and ensure transparent merit-based appointments.

He solicited the support of judicial officers for legislative reforms that will strengthen integrity, boost judges’ welfare and enhance justice delivery in Nigeria.

Akpabio told the Judges that the legislature remains committed to upholding integrity in the judiciary through impactful laws and oversight functions, assuring that the reforms will reposition the judiciary and rebuild public confidence.

Below is the full text of a paper presented at the All Nigeria Judges’ Conference of Superior Courts held at Andrews Otutu Obaseki Auditorium, National Judicial Institute, Abuja, on November 14th, 2023, by His Excellency, Distinguished Senator Godswill O. Akpabio, CON, President of the Senate, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Milords I extend to you all the greetings and warm wishes of my distinguished colleagues of the 10th Senate and thank you for the opportunity to speak on this very important subject that strikes at the very heart of our democracy, the foundation upon which our society rests – “Preventing Corruption and Breaches of Integrity in the Justice Sector, the Role of the Legislature”

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Permit me at this juncture to also appreciate Milords enormously for your selfless service to our dear country. I am particularly elated because the judiciary has held things together in the nascent democracy of this country, always thriving to remain the last hope of the common man.

I am first and foremost a lawyer before my adventure into politics and so I have a clear understanding of the real situation including institutional and legal bottlenecks that afflict the justice sector generally.

As a member of the legal profession, the President of the Senate and the chairman of the National Assembly, I humbly stand as the representative of the legislature and the people of Nigeria bearing a weighty responsibility in our collective endeavour to ensure that whatever are the causes of the alleged corruption and breaches of integrity in the justice sector, legislative interventions must be pursued vigorously for the purposes of elimination. This collective action-plan must be intentional to create a just, accountable and reliable justice system that serves the very best interest of every citizen.

It has become a norm for every outgoing justices of the various courts to lament on some of the problems of the Judiciary which we all know aforehand before they say it. Some of these challenges manifest in various forms, eroding the fundamental tenets of Justice, impairing public trust, and hampering the sector’s ability to function effectively.

Our responsibility is to support with necessary legislative interventions that will disincentive the eagerness towards corruption, close gaps and minimize negative opportunities and strengthen the Judiciary to purge itself of its own bad eggs. But beyond this, we stand by the determination of the current administration of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu GCFR to ensure improvement in the welfare of our judges of all the various courts.

Our judicial officers are often burdened to resolve conflicts of monumental dimensions and yet, my Lords still struggle with mundane and trivial survival needs and work tools. This is a situation that is now exacerbated by the challenging economy that this administration is battling with and which we are working very hard to improve upon. The legislature is determined to improve the judiciary through very intentional appropriations and we are going to work closely on this.

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We are aware that the number of Justices on the bench of the Supreme Court has dropped drastically below the constitutional requirement. It is a matter of national interest that we immediately initiate the due process of law to address the shortfall at the apex court. In this wise, the Legislature is ready to play its role.

The Judiciary and the Legislature share a unique relationship. The legislature is the assembly of the people, while the judiciary is the people’s last hope. We will always therefore seek to identify ways in which Parliament can help the judiciary to remain strong, productive and independent for the benefit of Nigeria. Stringent resource allocation, transparent and merit based appointments and removals are some of the measures that the legislature will entrench to assist the justice sector to regain its glory. Let it be known also that fostering a culture of integrity and accountability is achievable through continuous training of judicial officers on ethical standards and anti-corruption measures. Educating the public about their rights and the justice system’s operations, enhancing transparency in court proceedings and making legal processes more accessible and affordable are essential components.

The utilisation of technology to increase speed and transparency in court proceedings and case management reduces opportunities for corruption and breaches of integrity.

Of importance and which I should mention in this august event is the measures that this 10th Assembly will take to address the delay in justice delivery in Nigeria. We all know that justice delayed is justice denied. This has become a cankerworm that requires urgent solution. It is a truth that it takes average of 15 or 20 years to resolve simple business disputes in Nigeria. This is clearly unhealthy as it has placed the nation in a disadvantageous position in the 21st century. Therefore urgent institutional and legal reforms are required to address this abnormally. We in the national assembly are of the firm view that not every matter from the remotest village in Nigeria should end up at the Supreme Court in Abuja. Some of these cases are better stopped at the various court of appeals in the Federation if we are desirous of quicker dispensation of Justice.

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Under contemplation therefore is a bill to address that absurdity. The bill will address the issue of some of the cases that will have its final bus stop at the court of appeal while the Supreme court should be burdened with only cases that the stakeholders have agreed should end up at the apex court. With these and other progressive measures we would have addressed the issue of delay in our justice sector in Nigeria.

In conclusion Milords, the taste of the pudding is in the eating. I cannot exhaust all the plans of legislative intervention in this paper at this conference. What I know is that our commitment to preventing corruption and upholding integrity within the justice sector is unwavering. We are prepared to take robust legislative measures to address the teething problems of our justice sector. With these interventions and strategic moves, the 10th Assembly is dedicated to enhancing the administration of justice and improving justice service delivery across the nation.

I solicit the support of the bench for us to strengthen the integrity and capacity of our judges through proactive legislative interventions. The consequence will be a judiciary that is perceived as fair, independent and justice driven with improved positive perception by the members of the public.

I wish milords quality and successful deliberations in your conference.

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