- VP represents President at All Nigeria Judges’ Conference
- Deterrent costs against dilatory tactics advocated, Courts commended for effective response to pandemic
- Osinbajo is a “very solid part and parcel of us” – CJN
The Federal Government will continue to support efforts and reforms that safeguard the integrity of the Nigerian Judiciary, its independence from all forms of interference, and ensure it maintains the highest level of responsiveness and professional standards.
Also, because Nigeria is a major part of the global marketplace for investment and legal services, more foreign investors are attracted to the country because of a judiciary that maintains the highest professional standards and integrity.
These were the views of President Muhammadu Buhari, in his speech at the 2021 Biennial All Nigeria Judges’ Conference, which held at the National Judicial Institute, Abuja.
According to the President, “the extent to which we can attract business to our country depends in part upon investor perception of the quality of our justice delivery system. If we are seen as inefficient and ineffective, we would lose out to more efficient systems.”
Acknowledging that the judiciary remains the last hope of the common man, the President, who was represented at the event by his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, noted that “a trusted, well-resourced and well-functioning Judiciary is therefore essential to the entrenchment of rule of law.”
He added that “to maintain this revered position, and retain greater public confidence by the citizens, the Judiciary must be independent of all forms of interference and must maintain the highest level of responsiveness, professional standards, and integrity.
“We will continue to partner with you in ensuring that the Judiciary is financially independent; and effectively and sustainably retains a preeminent position in the quality of jurists manning our courts and the jurisprudence that develops from their collective premier reasoning.”
The President recalled his 2019 address to the Judiciary body, where he emphasized the need for implementation of measures that will ensure speedy dispensation of justice in the country through the dual-track of removing administrative bottlenecks in the judicial process and adopting modern time-saving technology.
In the same vein, President Buhari also commended the Nigerian Judiciary for “rising to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, by adopting innovative approaches.
He noted that these approaches, “in addition to ensuring compliance with the Covid-19 protocols, have ensured that the wheels of justice continued to move unhindered – in some cases even faster than what was obtained during physical hearings.”
The President pointed out that, “Practice Directions were issued by several courts for remote hearing of cases, electronic filing of court processes, service of hearing notices via email addresses and mobile phone numbers of counsel, and e-payment of filing fees; with relevant devices installed.
“Speed, efficiency, and effectiveness were attained. It aided in the decongestion of cases, did away with the obsolete method of physical filing, and ensured structured use of both judicial and administrative time and resources. Travel time to-and-from the court for litigants, counsel, and witnesses was no longer an issue, effectively minimizing the need for adjournments.”
According to the President, a universal application of these approaches nationwide will greatly enhance access to and speedy dispensation of justice.
President Buhari further said, “as My Lords are aware, delay in the dispensation of justice coupled with the increase in the number of cases in our courts have remained subjects of grave concern. As someone said, “our problem is not access to justice, it is exiting the justice system.”
“And I know that delays are not necessarily the fault of judges, lawyers are often responsible. Should we not then as been suggested by some, be evolving a cost-award system that recognizes the court as a finite and expensive public resource? And as such delays and other dilatory tactics are visited with deterrent costs?”
Again, emphasizing the importance of judicial integrity, President Buhari stated that “in my humble view, nothing is as important as for judges to be trusted for honesty and integrity.”
While he acknowledged the number of challenges that he said was “slowing the pace of transformation in our administration of the justice system,” President Buhari urged that “more needs to be done to strike a sound balance between a high level of productivity, the quality of judicial decisions, and careful consideration of cases.”
In his view, “men and women who have the power over the lives and livelihoods of others are not like the rest of us, we must place them on the highest scale of probity. I would like to urge that your Lordships must not allow a few to undermine the respect and trust both local and international that our Judiciary has built up in over a century of its existence.”
Highlighting some of the measures taken by his administration, through the Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the National Judicial Council, in resolving challenges in the Judiciary, the President noted the development of strategic infrastructure to provide ease in case management in courts, and the enhanced welfare of judicial officers.
The development of strategic infrastructure includes “the electronic recording of proceedings to replace the tedious longhand recording currently practiced in the majority of our courts,” the President stated.
He added, “advancements in courtroom technology (E-Court systems) have increased the level of efficiency in the justice system in the areas of speed of documentation, accuracy, security, and accessibility of records.
“Enhanced welfare of judicial officers, especially in the area of conditions of service – salaries, allowances, and retirement benefits for Judicial Officers. Provision of comprehensive medical insurance. On this, I wish to commend the National Judicial Council for the institution of the NJC Health Insurance Programme, which provides comprehensive international insurance for all members of the Federal Judiciary as well as comprehensive local coverage within all the States of the Federation.”
Also, the President commended the leadership of the Judiciary and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, for its proactive stance, “in tackling some of the recent issues that emerged, especially in the area of conflicting court orders by courts of coordinate jurisdiction; and My Lord’s disposition in revolutionizing the process of selection and appointment of Judges.”
In his remarks, the CJN, Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, thanked President Buhari and the VP for their efforts towards supporting the judiciary.
“Let me publicly acknowledge and thank the President of the federation, through his Excellency, the Vice President, for his complete obedience to the Constitution of the Federation in relation to the funding of the Federal Judiciary. The negotiation driven by the Ministry of Labour, between JUSUN and the Governors Forum under the directive of the President is quite commendable, we appreciate this support.”
Hon. Justice Muhammad also thanked Prof. Osinbajo for honoring their invitation on behalf of the President.
Describing the Vice President as “a very solid part and parcel of us,” the CJN said, “luckily enough for us, the man seated with us happens to not only be one of us but very knitted into us. He knows the court very well, not because of a few years ago, but he has been appearing before us. We talk with him and we are sure he is ever ready to continue to listen and assist us.”
Court Orders DSS To Allow Nnamdi Kanu ‘Maximum Possible Comfort’
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the Department of States Services (DSS) to allow Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the “maximum possible comfort” in its facility.
Justice Binta Nyako, the trial judge, gave the order at a court session on Thursday.
Ifeanyi Ejiofor and Aloy Ejimakor, the lead lawyers to Kanu, had on November 18, said his client has not been allowed to change his clothes by the secret service since he was arrested.
Raising an oral application in court on Thursday, Ejiofor reiterated his claim and pleaded with the court to give an order for his client to be given maximum comfort.
In her ruling, Justice Nyako told the separatist leader’s counsel that a custodial centre is not a “five-star hotel” where he can receive maximum comfort.
She, however, ordered the DSS to provide Kanu with the “maximum possible comfort”.
She also ruled that he should be allowed to have a bath whenever he wants, change his clothes, eat properly and practice his faith.
In a statement signed by Ejimakor and issued after the sitting, he noted that during the hearing, there was a total absence of security operatives in court and around the outer perimeters as was the case during previous proceedings.
The lawyer stated that Kanu was not in court and there was no officer from the Department of State Service to explain why, but said from his observation, both the court and the DSS might have concluded that his presence in court was not strictly required in the sort of application that was moved in court on Thursday.
He also claimed that the court did not grant Kanu’s legal team the leave to move their application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to continue the trial.
The statement read: “Recall that we had filed such application, arguing that the extraordinary rendition of Kanu constitutes a constitutional barrier to his trial. The court ruled that the application was not calendared for hearing today. That it will be heard at the next adjourned date.
“The court, after going through what it said is a tight judicial calendar, moved the date of the next hearing backwards from 19th to 18th January 2022. The court ruled that it will entertain all outstanding applications at the next hearing date, and proceeded to make the following Orders: That Mazi Kanu be given maximum comfort possible in the detention facility. That he be allowed a change of clothing.
“That he be allowed free practice of his Jewish faith including access to his Jewish religious materials. That the DSS obey all previous orders granted in the matter, including allowing Kanu any visitor of his choice. That Kanu be permitted, at his option, to mingle freely with other inmates or any other persons at the detention facility.”
Kanu, who jumped bail in 2017, was re-arrested and subsequently repatriated to Nigeria from an undisclosed location on 27 June “through the collaborative efforts of Nigerian intelligence and security services”, according to Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation.
He was re-arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja on 29 June and ordered to be remanded in the custody of the DSS.
The trial was stalled after the DSS failed to produce Kanu in court on 26 July, the adjourned date for hearing.
Justice Binta Nyako, the trial judge, adjourned the case till October 21, 2021, when judges were expected to have resumed their annual vacation.
The Federal Government had slammed an amended seven-count charge against Kanu.
Kanu was eventually produced in court on 21 October and pleaded “not guilty” to an amended seven-charge bordering on treason, treasonable felony, terrorism and illegal possession of firearms among others filed against him by the Federal Government.
Justice Nyako adjourned the case till January 19 and 20, 2022, for the continuation of trial.
Ex-Senate President Joseph Wayas dies at 80
Joseph Wayas, a former Nigerian senate president of the Second Republic, has reportedly died in London at 80.
It was gathered that the octogenarian passed on after a long illness in a London hospital.
Wayas was born on May 21, 1941, in Basang, Obudu, Cross River State.
He completed his secondary education at Dennis Memorial Grammar School in Onitsha before moving to the United Kingdom to study at Higher Tottenham Technical College in London.
The former Senate President also attended Birmingham’s West Bromwich College of Commerce, Science, Technology, and Aston University.
Wayas was the third Senate President from 1979 to 1983, when the region was snuffed out by a coup that installed then-General Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s head of state.
Wayas was one of the founders of the now-defunct All People’s Party. In 2002, he joined the opposition People’s Democratic Party.
Professor Ben Ayade, governor of Cross River State, has announced the death of Dr Joseph Wayas, the Second Republic Senate President.
Wayas’ death was described as “a monumental loss to Cross River State in particular and Nigeria as a whole” by Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade.
“As a state, Cross River is in pains as we mourn the passing of our illustrious son,” Ayade’s special adviser on media and publicity, Christian Ita, said.
“He was a rare gem. Dr Wayas’ demise is indeed a monumental loss to our dear state and Nigeria.”
According to the governor, “as Senate President, Dr Wayas contributed to the deepening of Nigeria’s democratic ethos through his robust and vibrant leadership of the upper legislative chamber.
“And since his retirement from active politics, the former Senate President had been playing a fatherly and stabilising role in the politics and affairs of our state.”
He expressed his condolences to Dr Wayas’ family, assuring them that his death is a collective loss and that their grief is shared, adding, “we are with you in this time of grief.” We keep you in our thoughts and prayers.”
Oyo State: Islamic cleric worries over arrested relative by the army
Sheik Taofeeq Akewugbagold, a popular Islamic cleric in Oyo State, appealed to Governor Seyi Makinde regarding the release of his relative, identified as Azeez, who was reportedly arrested by the Nigeria Army.
On November 18, Azeez was detained at his home on Alhaja Sara Street, Cele, in Oyo Town, by soldiers from the Operation Burst Office. Handcuffed and blindfolded, he was taken to an unknown destination.
The cleric said that the 52-year-old detainee was suspected of assisting Sunday Igboho in bringing money into the country. Another rumour, he added, was that the detainee was acquainted with the hoodlums that assaulted the Medium Security Custodial Centre Abolongo in Oyo.
According to Akewugbagold, Azeez is a farmer, a transporter, and a prominent member of the All Progressives Congress in the state with no criminal record and was unaware of these events he’s accused of.
The family had reported the issue to Oyo police and gone to Operation Burst Office in Oyo, but no information on his location was supplied to them.
When approached by the media, the Commander of Operation Burst, Adamu Abubakar, said he was aware of the arrest but that the order came from Abuja. “I am aware of the arrest, but it is from Abuja. The family had contacted me and I told them it is beyond us here.”
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