RETIRED Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, yesterday, said the Nigerian Judiciary “withstood immense pressure” in order to guarantee the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.image-24-e1478791074487

Justice Mahmud, who was hitherto the Chairman of the National Judicial Council, NJC, spoke on a day he bowed out of active judicial service, having clocked the mandatory 70 years retirement age. He maintained that the country owed the judiciary a debt of gratitude for standing firm in the face of contrary winds he said threatened to blow the nation’s democracy off course.

According to him: “During the run-up to the 2015 election, our judicial officers withstood immense pressure in order to guarantee a level playing field and smooth transition of government, which ensured that we were spared a re-enactment of the June 12 saga. “In fact, the courts, thus securing the electoral process, disallowed so many frivolous matters aimed at truncating the electoral process.  I must particularly commend the Supreme Court for refusing to be intimidated or influenced by any candidate or political party, and I make no apologies for the firm stand we took in our decisions. “I am proud to be part of the Supreme Court, which refused to be cowered into truncating the electoral process. I am proud to have headed this noble arm of government and steering it through some very stormy waters. I am proud of the Nigerian Judiciary.

“Indeed, to protect the institutions of the judiciary from undue influence was a key concern of mine during my tenure. Since assumption of office, I have worked to strengthen the integrity of our judicial institutions through the review of the judicial officers appointments process as well as innovations, which will enhance case disposition.”

Need for constitutional review

Besides, Justice Mahmud said there was need for a further review of the 1999 Constitution to among other things, limit the automatic right of appeal to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, which he said “had inordinately and adversely increased the backlog of cases”, as well as affected Justice delivery. The immediate past CJN said he had earlier written to the 7th  and 8th National Assemblies, appraising them of the necessity to consider fundamental amendments to the Constitution.

Purging judiciary of graft

Meanwhile, he noted that Judiciary under his leadership pursued the full application of the guidelines for the discipline of judicial officers, 2014, a move he said resulted in the sack of six superior court judges and reprimanding of eight others by the NJC. “These disciplinary actions are regrettable, yet the necessary steps that we have had to take in order to secure and restore the reputation of our beloved Judiciary from the scourge of corruption and gross misconduct in public offices. “We have often premised these decisions upon the need to ensure that the Judiciary is as above board as Caesar’s wife. I am sure that the Council will continue to play its part under my successor-in-office as the fight against corruption is one that is ongoing and must be sustained in order to ensure that we rid the Judiciary of the filth that currently besmirches its image”, the former CJN added. Independence of the judiciary He equally called for independence of the judiciary, saying it is a sine qua non for any civilised society to function effectively and peacefully.

NJC must be reformed – SANs

Meanwhile, the body of SANs, yesterday, called for a total reform of the NJC in terms of its composition, powers and functions. The body, in a speech, it presented at the valedictory court session, said the provision of the Constitution, which limits participation of five members of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in the Council to matters of appointment of Judges, “ought not to be allowed to remain a minute longer.” It said: “The power of the NJC to investigate complaints of misconduct against serving Judges beg for immediate review if the activities of the NJC are to be seen as transparent and honest or effective.  The NJC should get back to the drawing board and produce realistic guidelines and policies designed to ensure that only the best candidates find themselves appointed as Judges or Justices. “Judicial office must be seen as an appointive position and not a promotional office.

The profession must say good bye to the immediate past era when the Judicial Service Commission in the states appoints or recommends for appointment as Judges, candidates who the only basis for selection is the appearance of the candidates name in the list submitted by the state Governor, his privy or some party leaders.

“The profession must turn its back to those who want to ascend to the judicial office through sponsorship of godfathers or godmothers. “We must resist every political interference in the appointment of Judges”, the body stated in a speech that was read by Chief Thompson Okpoko, SAN.

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