CHIEF Justice of Nigeria
(CJN), Walter Onnoghen
yesterday asked judges to
be careful of the antics of
politicians to avoid being led
into acts capable of ruining
their reputation.
Justice Onnoghen noted that
as the nation moves closer
to its electioneering season,
politicians have become
desperate and would do to
anything to attain power.
He said: “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 including
destroying our hard earned
reputation and integrity.
“I therefore say to all of us,
be strong, courageous, fair but
firm. Stick to the constitutional
provisions, the law and
doctrine of precedents (stare
– decisis) and you cannot go
wrong.
“Even when you are wrongly
accused, as we very much are,
be patient and remain assured
that ‘truth crushed to the earth
shall rise again the eternal
years of God are hers.
Onnoghen spoke in Abuja
yesterday during the opening
session of the Annual Justices
of the Court of Appeal
Conference.
The CJN, who was silent
on their names, said 14 new
Justices have formally been
appointed for the Court of
Appeal.
Justice Onnoghen preached
against corruption on the
bench and urged judge to
respect the decisions of the
higher courts.
He said: “As you may be
aware, the National Judicial
Council at it’s just concluded
meeting, approved the
elevation of 14 Judges to the
Court of Appeal to fill in
vacancies that had existed
hitherto in the Court.
“This will certainly help to
reduce the work load for the
Justices of the court, as well as
help in your preparations as
we approach election year in
our country.
“Your level of preparation,
coupled with the
determination of Mr. President,
Mohammadu Buhari, GCFR to
bequeath to Nigeria a legacy
of credible election process,
will guarantee the peace and
stability we all desire.
“The fight against
corruption must be holistic.
Consequently, we must
address those issues that tend
to distract the Judicial Officer,
as well as removing from our
midst, undesirable persons of
questionable character.
“It is my firm believes that if we identify and remove them at the lower
courts, the appellate courts would have men
of integrity, which in turn elicits confidence
in the litigants who come before you.
“I urge you to change your attitude towards
your obligation to stare decisis. The benefits
are far-reaching and far out-weigh the few
and feeble disadvantages.
“On Judicial precedents as it relates to
election and pre-election matters, I want
to remind us that the Supreme Court
has decided in a number of cases that
the principles of Judicial review such as
Mandamus, Certiorari, Prohibition etc do not
apply because election and election related
matters, such as pre-election causes are suis
generis.
“There is an emerging trend whereby a
party in a pre-election or election matter,
after exhausting his remedies sometimes up
to the Supreme Court still pursues a parallel
cause of action under the guise of judicial
review hoping that one of such parallel
actions may succeed, thereby making the
court to contradict itself resulting in great
embarrassment to the system.
“Much injustice is thereby created
particularly in matters that may not get to the
Supreme Court for correction.
“Where, however, the matter gets to the
Supreme Court and the right thing is done,
much injustice would have been occasioned
by not following the principles of stare
decisis.
“I am saying these because soon the tempo
of political activities will pick up and some
lawyers will stop at nothing in their effort
to outsmart the Bench; so be very very
careful and as I have always said, be on top
of your game by mastering the principles of
laws and facts relevant to the case or issues
involved in the dispute so as not to allow
legal practitioners to mislead you to the
embarrassment of the Judiciary.
“Always be consistent by following the
principles of stare decisis and the law. If
you stick to this simple piece of advice, you
will not go wrong in your determinations/
decisions,” Onnoghen said.
The President of the Court of Appeal,
Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who also
confirmed the appointment of new Justices
for her court, said those appointed were
solely on merit.
She said: “I would also like to seize this
opportunity to straighten the fact on the
ongoing process of elevation of Judges to the
Court of Appeal.
“It is strictly based on merit with
particular preference for Judges who have
distinguished themselves by the quality of
their judgements in the lower courts and to fill
in vacancies created by the death, retirement
or elevation to the Supreme Court of our
former justices.”
Bulkachuwa, who spoke about the many
innovations to be introduced into the court’s
operations in the New Year, urged Justices of
the court to shun corruption.
She said: “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 we 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,” Bulkachuwa said.

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