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National Judicial Council Bars Publication Of Petitions Against Judges


National Judicial Council Bars Publication Of Petitions Against Judges

The National Judicial Council (NJC) has barred publication of allegations of misconduct against judicial officers or employees of the judiciary.
This is one of the high points of the National Judicial Policy (NJP) and the Judicial Ethics Committee (JEC) launched yesterday in Abuja by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Mahmud Mohammed.
Part of the policy reads, “It shall be the policy of the judiciary on complaints that allegations of misconduct against judicial officers or employees of the judiciary shall not be leaked or published in the media.
“Where complaints on allegations against judicial officers and court employees are submitted for investigation, the complainant or complainants shall be made to give an undertaking not to do anything to prejudice investigation or actions that may be taken.
“The institutions of the judiciary concerned with investigation or and implementation of decisions taken on such complaints shall be obliged to cease further action where such complaints are leaked or discussed in the media.
“Where such a leakage is occasioned after the submission of a complaint then all investigations on the complaints shall be suspended, the leakage investigated and if such leakage is from the complainant on through other parties known to such a complainant, such a complaint should be discarded.
“Where such leakage is occasioned prior to the presentation of the complaint and the source of the leakage is found to be the complainant or through other parties known to and connected with the complainant then such complaint shall not be accepted, upon submission by the appropriate disciplinary body.
“Upon the conclusion of any investigation, the judicial disciplinary bodies may allow public disclosure of their findings, subject to following the proper channels for such disclosure.”
This is coming at a time when the NJC, the body vested with disciplinary powers over judges at all levels, is under attack for allegedly shielding corrupt judges.
The criticism of the NJC was sparked by the arrest of seven judges including two serving justices of the Supreme Court over alleged corruption allegations.
The Department of State Services (DSS) had alleged that it took the step after the NJC rebuffed complaints against some of the arrested judges. But the NJC has since denied the allegation. The new policy was prepared by the NJC in April 2016 but was launched yesterday.
Meanwhile, Femi Falana (SAN) has described the NAP as illegal and unconstitutional. According to him to the extent that the NJP is inconsistent with the constitution, it is illegal.
“By virtue of the fact that every complainant has freedom of expression that includes freedom to pass knowledge and information, if a petition is lodged at the NJC secretariat and it leaks that is the end. A judge who may have no defence can leak a petition. NJP is illegal policy and cannot stand. If a judge does not want to be investigated, all he does is to leak the petition”, Falana said.
Selekeowei Larry (SAN) while reacting said that the NJP is to stifle the press, adding that “Information everywhere, anywhere is for media use in line with the Freedom of information Act. Things are getting to irritating level and the Judiciary is moving from one level of wrong to another level”.
The NJP also provides that the Judiciary shall not resort to lobbying in ensuring that the Legislature and the Executive perform their constitutional responsibility.
The CJN said that the NJP was borne out of the realization that the Nigerian Judiciary had been adversely affected by the absence of a clear, coordinated policy framework that defines its core morals, values, objects and aspirations.
The CJN also inaugurated a 10-man standing JEC to ensure enforcement. Some of the members of the JEC which is chaired by Justice Legbo Kutigi are Justices Emmanuel Ayoola, former Chairman ICPC, Abdullahi Umaru former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice J. Ughu, Justice I. Bassey, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, President of National Industrial Court, Justice Ishaq Bello, Chief Judge Federal Capital Territory High Court, Mr. Abubakar Mahmud, President of the NBA and Mr. Okey Wali former NBA President.

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Posted by on October 25, 2016.

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