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Nigerians Must Safeguard Independence, Integrity Of Judiciary—Says HURIWA

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
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The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has called on the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) to safeguard the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

The National Coordinator of HURIWA, Mr. Emmanuel Onwubiko, made the call in Abuja at a news briefing.

HURIWA decried the way some of lawyers make unsubstantiated statements over national issues through the media describing it as `antithetical to democratic tenets’.

The group has also charged the Supreme court of Nigeria currently adjudicating high profile cases such as that of the election petitions must continue to be above board and not allow political bullying from any quarter.

“Credibility of the civil society is damaged when we allow ourselves to become political tools,’’ he said.

Onwubiko urged the federal government to review its anti corruption war and be fair to all. The group said the Supreme Court of Nigeria must never become the LAPDOG OF THE EXECUTIVE ARM OF GOVERNMENT BUT MUST RENDER JUDGMENTS BASED ON CONCRETE EVIDENCE BEFORE THEIR LORDSHIPS WHO ARE MINISTERS IN THE TEMPLE OF JUSTICE. THE SUPREME COURT CAN MALE OR MAR THE UNITY, SOCIAL COHESION AND PEACE OF THE COMPONENT PARTS OF NIGERIA ESPECIALLY AS THE JUSTICES ENTERTAIN POLITICAL LITIGATION CASES INVOLVING GOVERNORS AND THEIR POLITICAL OPPONENTS. THE JUSTICES WILL BE HELD TO ACCOUNT SHOULD THEY GIVE JUDGMENTS BASED SENTIMENTS BECAUSE THE PEACE ENJOYED IN ANY PART OF NIGERIA CAN BE IMPERILED IF THE SUPREME COURT GIVE JUDGMENT TO FAVOUR CERTAIN INTEREST OR ALLOW THEMSELVES TO BE PUT UNDER PRESSURES OR BULLIED BY CABINET level members of the current Federal government.

HURIWA charged the media to be objective in reporting political litigations.

“We commend the Chief Justice of Nigeria for his forthrightness and courage in the face of political intimidation from some central government officials who are deploying media forces to railroad the Nigerian judiciary to do their bidding. We urge the hierarchy of the Nigerian Judiciary not to be a respected of person or institution but must comply with the constitution and best global practices.”

Judges must safeguard independence of the judiciary institutions.

Judicial independence is the concept that the judiciary needs to be kept away from the other branches of government. That is, courts should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government, or from private or partisan interests. Judicial Independence is vital and important to the idea of separation of powers.

Different countries deal with the idea of judicial independence through different means of judicial selection, or choosing judges. One way to promote judicial independence is by granting life tenure or long tenure for judges, which ideally frees them to decide cases and make rulings according to the rule of law and judicial discretion, even if those decisions are politically unpopular or opposed by powerful interests.

In many countries, the ability of the judiciary to check the legislature is enhanced by the power of judicial review. This power can be used, for example, by mandating certain action when the judiciary perceives that a branch of government is refusing to perform a constitutional duty, or by declaring laws passed by the legislature unconstitutional.

“The prickliness of democracies towards elected and unelected representatives is encouraged by the fact that democracy thrives on separations. In monitory democracies, for instance, everything seems disconnected: civil society from government, representatives from those whom they represent, executives from legislatures, majorities from minorities, civil powers from military and police power, parties from voters, experts from laypeople, consumers from producers, journalists from audiences, the young from the old, workers from capitalists, lawyers from clients, doctors from patients. Both government and civil society are internally fragmented. These multiple, criss-crossing separations are necessary conditions of citizen’s equal freedom from concentration of power.

Democracies try hard to take the sting out of imperiousness. They resist calls for social unity and political concord. Those who wield power are reminded constantly of their (potential) powerlessness. They are kept permanently on their toes by the push-pull dynamics set in train by differentiation.” (The Life And Death Of Democracy By John Keane)

*Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human rights Writers association of Nigeria and blogs @ www.huriwa.blogspot.com , www.rightsassociationngr.com , www.huriwa.org .