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Justice Mariam Mukhtar

 

•Corrupt judges seek soft landing

Tobi Soniyi

The National Judicial Council (NJC) Wednesday in Abuja concluded the first day of its meeting where some lawyers were recommended for appointment as judges, while others already serving were recommended for promotion.

Some lawyers were recommended for appointment as state high court judges, while others were recommended for appointment as judges of the National Industrial Court (NIC).

A source with the NJC confirmed to THISDAY that the issue of discipline of judges would be tabled for consideration today.

Also, there were indications that some judges might have made overtures to the NJC to allow them to retire voluntarily in order to save themselves the embarrassment of being disgraced out of office.

Specifically, some justices of the Court of Appeal were said to have negotiated a soft landing through the acting President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, which would allow them to retire early.

Further investigations revealed that the council might however defer consideration of petitions against some erring judges due to the fact that they submitted their responses to the petitions very late.

A source said that the judges’ responses came in less than a week to the NJC’s meeting when the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Mukhtar, who also doubles as chairman of the council, was away on official assignment to South Africa.
However, a decision will be taken on the petitions upon which the council had concluded investigations.

Prior to her confirmation by the Senate last year, Justice Mukhtar had expressed concern over the image of the Judiciary and pledged to deal decisively with erring judicial officers.

A couple of weeks ago, the CJN had also threatened serving judges fond of giving questionable judgments with serious sanctions.

According to her, “A judge should write a judgment in a simple and unambiguous manner such that it leaves no one in doubt as to what the judgment has addressed.
“A judgment should meet the justice of the matter or controversies between the contending parties. It is certainly not good for a judgment to be capable of more than one interpretation; otherwise, the judge would have caused more problem than the reason for his being called upon to intervene in the first place.

“Where therefore a judge is found to be complicit in the writing and delivery of a judgment, the NJC as constitutional regulatory body will not hesitate to wield the big sticks.”

Mukhtar’s efforts at cleansing the judiciary have already received global recognition. The April 8-15 edition of the US-based Newsweek magazine nominated her as one of the “125 women of impact” in the world.

The magazine had premised Justice Mukhtar’s nomination on her judicial reforms and avowed determination to get rid of judges involved in fraudulent practices or judgments for sale.

Specifically, the magazine noted, “In a country notorious for its crooked officials, Nigeria’s first female chief justice, Mukhtar, has built a reputation as an unwavering reformer unafraid to root out criminals.”

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