Assert yourselves and protect judiciary decisional independence – Body of Senior Advocates tells judges

The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria has challenged judges and justices in the country to assert themselves and protect the judiciary decisional independence as the country approach the general election in 2023.

The body conveyed its feelings in a speech delivered  on Monday in Abuja  through  Chief Chris Uche (SAN),  during the valedictory Federal High Court session in honour of late Chief Judge of the Court Justice Adamu Abdu -Kafarati.

Uche said that besides the well- known external  impediments to the independence of the judiciary such as financial dependence, appointment and removal of judges, disobedience to court orders etc, there are internal factor mitigating against the judiciary.
For instance, how is the judiciary itself ,indeed the legal profession confronting the external enemies, he asked.

“Is the judiciary doing what it ought to do to defend and protect its own independence, or has it in an away been complicit , either by action or inaction, in allowing external enemies to invade the sacred sanctuary,” the body of senior advocates queried.

The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria  also said that “there have been systematic efforts in recent times by the ruling class  to erode the independence of the judiciary through intimidation, coercion, arm- twisting,  divide – and – rule tactics ,and outright harassment.”

It warned that “as journey to 2023 has begun ,it is more likely to intensify, if experience is anything to go by.”

The intimidation, coercion and  arm-twisting, the body of senior advocates pointed out started with the raid on the homes of judges in October 2016, followed up with a media blitz that hamstrung and demystified the judiciary.

Uche recalled that some of them the  lawyers screamed , while some others justified the illegal actions, not realizing the ultimate impact on the entire body of justice.

He lamented that as sacrilegious as the Onnoghen saga were,  both the bench and the bar did not rise to the occasion to nip the ugly trend in the bud, as the judiciary was traumatized and the bar polarized. He said that regrettably the Court of Appeal refused to deliver it’s ruling in the matter for over three months.

The judiciary must unite to defend itself, it “must be assertive on such issues when the law is on their side, he enjoined,  adding that ” judges must be their brother’s keepers.”

The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria further warned that “as we approach 2023 , temptation to interfere in electoral matters before your courts ,be they primary or post elections ,will intensify.”

The temptation towards use of selective prosecution of corruption cases against political opponents will also step up adding that judiciary must guard it’s independence.

According to the senior lawyers ,the true independence the Nigerian judiciary needs at this crucial time in the life of our nation, ” is not only financial independence or infrastructural independence,  but decisional independence to fulfill it’s constitutional oath and mandate to dispense justice to all manner of people without fear or favour.”

Chief judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho described the valedictory Court session as a sorrowful and solemn event .He said late Chief judge Abdu – Kafarati who  retired on July 25, 2019 was expected to enjoy life with his family and friends.

He said that the short period Kafarati served as Chief Judge , saw some innovations that brought about speedy and effectual adjudication of causes and matters.
Retired Justice Adamu  Abdu Kafarati died on Thursday , February 28, 2021 after observing evening prayer for the day.