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CJN berates judges, threatens sack

By The Citizen

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Aloma - Mukhtar, Monday in Abuja lamented decline in the performance of judicial officers, warning that the National Judicial Council (NJC) would not hesitate to issue marching orders against erring judges.

Speaking at a refresher course for judges and Khadis by the National Judicial Institute (NJI) with the theme - Towards a Culture of Better Judgment Writing and Judgment Delivery, Aloma – Mukhtar admitted that public confidence in justice delivery is fast being eroded as a result of poor performance of judges.

She said: 'The National Judicial Council through its Performance Evaluation Committee is concerned about the quality and quantity of the output of judges in terms of the monthly returns they file.

'Let us not deceive ourselves, the public confidence and trust in our work as judicial officers is beginning to nosedive. This is borne out partly from judgment emanating from our courts which the public or some section of it feels is rather unconscionable.'

She said the NJC would not only empower the Performance Evaluation Committee, but would also rely on the committee's performance reports to discipline them.

On the discretionary powers of judges, she held that even though judges have discretion in some cases, 'the exercise of any discretion in adjudication must be judicially, judiciously and reasonably done.'

The CJN urged judges not to put themselves in positions where the exercise of their discretion would be considered unreasonable in the eyes of a 'reasonable' member of the society.

She warned that NJC would not hesitate to wield the big stick where a judge was found to be complicit in the writing and delivery of a judgment.

She said: 'Of course a public uproar or placard carrying scenario against the judgment of a court of record is not to the credit of the judiciary.

'I have heard the aphorism a couple of times that in the court, the rich get bail while the poor get jailed. To what extent have we as judges turned justice as within the reach of the highest bidder?'

In his own welcome address to the judges at the refresher course, the Administrator of the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Justice Umaru Eri asked the judges to be mindful of the fact that the sustenance of peace in the country depended to a great extent on their judicial pronouncements.