The Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Ado Ekiti Branch, Adeyemi Adewumi, on Monday made case for total independence of the Judiciary by weaning them from dependence on the Executive in terms of appointment and finance to avoid arbitrariness and domination.
Adewumi, who said the present situation whereby the Executive had the authority to appoint judges and magistrates had given it the power to stifle and control the judiciary with impunity, said the trend must change to strengthen democracy and judicature.
The NBA chairman, who spoke at a press conference to flag off the branch’s 2022 Law Week with the theme, ‘Judicial independence, a recipe for true democracy in Nigeria’, said, “[The] Judiciary will never be functional and independent as long as the executive ratifies their appointments and release funds for their operations.
“We have heard from chief judges of states saying that the allocation they got from governments could not pay the salaries of judges, let alone putting up infrastructures. Why should we have an environment like that? We will continue to have problems with this situation.
“Judiciary should be allowed to be financially independent. Why should Judiciary run to the Executive if they want to buy an ordinary key? We are saying this must stop. If you see the vehicles being used by some of our Judges, you will pity them. We are saying that it is high time we allowed the judiciary to be truly independent,” he said.
Adewumi, who said that allowing the judicial arm to continue to be at the mercy of the executive would ruin the country’s democracy and derail the development focus, added that non-separation of the judiciary from the executive and legislature “is capable of leading to any form of injustice, abuse, miscarriage of justice, judicial insensitivity or other court-related vices”.
He said, “In a country such as Nigeria which is at present characterised by political and economic underdevelopment, it is generally considered constitutionally desirable that a viable contrivance such as the institutional separation of the judiciary from the other arms of government is a necessary bulwark against all forms of tyranny, administrative victimisation, and oppression.
“In other words, the freedom of judicature from any influence exerted by the legislature or executive or even from the judiciary itself is a valid condition sine qua non for the establishment of a durable political order based on the rule of law and constitutionalism.
“Judicial independence means that judges and magistrates must be free to exercise their judicial powers without fear, favour and interference from litigants, state, which doubles as its appointing authority, media or other powerful individuals or institutions, including multinational and high net worth companies.
“For the Judiciary to be truly independent, it is considered that Judges must be free to discharge their responsibilities not minding whose ox is gored or pandering to the sentimental dictates of their statutory appointors, as judges are appointed by the executive subject to recommendation by National Judicial Council,” he said.
As part of the branch’s contribution to the quest for genuine independence, Adewumi said, “We can, during this conference, send a memo to the National Assembly to rework our constitution to give the NJC more powers in the appointment of our judges.”