The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has urged judges to be strong, courageous, fair but firm to sustain the ongoing improvement of public perception in the judiciary.
Onnoghen said this at the annual Justices of Court of Appeal Conference on Thursday in Abuja.
“As you must be aware, the narrative and public perception of the Judiciary is changing. This, to my mind, is an indication that the Judiciary remains the beacon of hope of any Society.
It is not yet Uhuru, as we are not completely out of the woods. If anything, this is a call to more work,’’ he said.
He said: “as I told you last year, cautiously opening up the Judiciary to the public helps to change the wrong perception people have of the activities of the Courts.
Where people are well informed, incidents of rumours, fake news, false allegations, petitions etc are reduced’’.
The CJN further said the judges must be in absolute control of their courts and the information they put in the public domain.
“That ensures that you do less of damage control, and more of pro-active dissemination of information,’’ he said.
Onnoghen said: “I must commend you all for keying into my vision to reform the Judiciary during my tenure in Office, and taking steps to actualize this vision’’.
On his directive for prompt decongestion of courts, Onnoghen, expressed delight in the manner the court of appeal had embraced it so far.
“I am very proud of the leadership strides of the President of the Court of Appeal and all the Justices of the Court who worked assiduously to decongest the Courts.
“This, you have done by speedy conclusion of matters pending before your various divisions,’’ he said.
The CJN said he hoped to return judiciary to its glory as a noble and enviable institution in every sense of the word.
Speaking on election petitions, the CJN said justice of the Court of Appeal must be wary of conducts of overzealous parties who wanted favourable judgments at all cost.
“Let me remind us that our salvation remains in our hands, so in the approaching frenzied political activities leading to the 2019 General Elections let us continue to watch the company we keep.
The people we open our doors to lest we unwittingly open ourselves to ridicule and embarrassment as the politicians will do anything not necessarily legal, to have their way,’’ he said.
He therefore advised them to be strong, courageous, fair but firm, adding that they must stick to constitutional provisions, the Law and doctrine of precedents in order to stay out of trouble.
Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, President of the Court of Appeal, said the annual conference was meant to brainstorm on the successes recorded with a view to highlighting and preferring solutions to issues raised.
“Sometimes back, the judiciary came under heavy attacks on allegation of corrupt practices.
“As Judicial officers, it is not enough to simply talk about corrupt practices but one must believe in the fight against corruption and must work at it together.
“I therefore, urge us all to eschew corruption and uphold best practices that will rekindle and bring back trust to the judicial arm of government.
“Let’s not ask how corruption can be tackled, our main focus should be on what we can do as individuals, or collectively as a body to address this plague,’’ she said.
Bulkachuwa further said the court was not only adopting clearer measures to promoting accountability and transparency but working out a template to enhance efficiency in general administration of the court.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the first day of the two-day conference of justices also attracted participation of other principal officers of the court.