Ahead of litigations that will arise from this year’s general election, Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, yesterday, urged judges across the federation to protect the interest of the citizens.
Muhammad warned that democracy could only thrive in the country when fundamental rights of the citizens, epitomized by free and fair elections, were respected.
He noted that the judiciary was the only arm of the government constitutionally vested with powers to reconcile the interest of “the powerful” with those of “the voiceless poor.”
The acting CJN spoke at the opening ceremony of the 2019 refresher course for judges and kadis at National Judicial Institute, NJI, in Abuja.
He said: “My lords, as we are all aware, democracy insists on the respect for the Rule of Law. Its principles also advocate the independence of the judiciary, the doctrine of separation of powers, guarantee of fundamental rights, freedom of expression epitomized by free press and media as well as free and fair elections.
“These are principles, which we as judicial officers are called to protect.
“Brother judges, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, our nascent democracy has to be nurtured, consolidated and developed even as we will be faced with the arduous task of adjudicating over election petitions as we are in an election year.
“We must be constantly reminded that Democracy in itself is nothing if fundamental principles enshrined in the Constitution of this nation cannot be readily determined in constitutional adjudication by a Judiciary manned by upright Judicial Officers.
“This is premised on the fact that as the society depends on justice, those who are singularly advantaged to do justice to all manner of persons, must ensure that they themselves are standing erect far away from all manners of injustice.
“In this light, I must not fail to emphasise at this forum, that Judges are enjoined to ensure the protection of constitutionally enshrined human rights of the citizens.
“Our institution, the Judiciary, is the only Arm of Government vested with such powers. The interest of the powerful must always be reconciled with those of the voiceless poor.
“This is a constitutional function which the Courts in this country must continuously pursue. It is heart-warming that our courts have lived up to expectation in perilous times which our dear country has faced in the past and we must continue to do so.
“In addition, my Lords, we must remain sensitive to the fact that the Constitution imposes on all of us obligations to interpret the law and adjudicate impartially.
“The courts must at all times be prepared to interpret the constitution, relevant statutes and to serve as an arbiter to litigants at minimum costs.
“This process, among others, can rapidly enhance the true comprehension of our Constitutional provisions as a step towards the identification of the grey areas requiring future amendments, modifications, alterations, and/or even complete deletions”.
In her welcome address, the Administrator of the NJI, Justice R. P. I. Bozimo, said the theme of the this year’s Refresher Course: “Repositioning the Judiciary for Better Justice Delivery”, was apt and topical, considering that judicial integrity and the Rule of Law are the underlying principles of justice and the bedrock of democracy.
“Therefore, much energy, skill and experience must be devoted to strengthening the principles of impartiality, diligence, competence, propriety, qualitative justice, strict adherence to the Rule of Law, speedy dispensation of justice and fair conduct of cases with a view to ensuring that justice is not only done but must be seen to be done.
“It is only when these factors are present that judicial functions can validly and effectively be exercised,” Justice Bozimo added.