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I Am Ready To Defend Judiciary With My Life, Says CJN

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The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, says he is prepared to lay down his life to defend the independence of the country’s judiciary.

Justice Muhammad, who said this at the ongoing annual general conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Lagos, declared that the judiciary under him would continue to dispense justice without fear or favour.

The CJN said that he cannot be intimidated or cowed by anybody to undermine the judiciary or the administration of justice in Nigeria.

He said: “By the grace of Almighty God, I will tenaciously hold on to that even until that very moment of my last breath on earth. Let me assure this assembly, we don’t look at anybody’s face or feelings before making our decisions.

“If there is any deity to be feared, that deity is the Almighty God. We will never be subservient to anybody, no matter how highly placed,” he said.

Justice Muhammad noted that one of the fundamental issues affecting the independence of the judiciary was funding, especially at the state level.

He, therefore, appealed to the stakeholders in the justice system to allow the judiciary to enjoy its independence through adequate funding.

The CJN said that allocations to the judiciary must be deducted from the first line charge so that heads of courts would not have to beg for funds from the executive arm of government.

While describing the theme of the conference: “Facing the Future,” as apt, the CJN said that though some, out of pessimism or timidity, might describe the future as bleak, “for the judiciary, under our watch, I can assure you that, by the grace of God, the future looks bright.”

He continued: “Since my appointment as the chief justice, my focus has been on reinventing our processes, providing speedy and quality administration of justice, strengthening our structures from the Supreme Court to other courts of records and stamping out corruption from the system.”

Justice Muhammad condemned the actions of some lawyers who file cases that have been decided by the Supreme Court and cautioned them to desist from the practice of filing needless appeals at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, warning that the apex court would be unsparing in punishing “blatant abusers of the court processes.”

Muhammad said the attitude contributes to delay in the administration of justice in the country and declared that the apex court would continue to punish such lawyers in accordance with the rules of legal practice.

The attorney-general of the federation and minster of justice, Abubakar Malami, said that the Buhari administration would continue to sustain the independence of the judiciary.

Malami, who declared the conference opened, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, said that the federal government had demonstrated its respect for the judiciary by not dictating to it and accepting adverse court judgments without questions.

Malami added that the Buhari government was committed to strengthening institutions in the country.

According to him, “we have had to disrupt the age-long wrong assumptions and historical narratives of the presumed immunity of sacred cows in our society, simply to demonstrate that henceforth the law will be used as a potent instrument to regulate the activities of all persons and institutions in our country in a fair and transparent manner.”

Malami reiterated the federal government’s resolve to probe the circumstances surrounding the failed project leading to $9billion arbitration award against Nigeria in favour of a British firm, P&ID.

He said that all culpable individuals and corporate bodies would be punished.

“It is a sad testimony with potential for national economic disaster when legal issues are handled ether in a compromised, ignorant or incompetent manner.

“Let me inform that without prejudice to our right to challenge this award, Mr. President has directed the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to take steps to ensure that all issues related to negotiation, signing, formation and obvious frustration of the purported contract are duly investigated and all persons and institutions, whether in the private or public sector, who acted in ways that have now made our dear nation face potential economic adversity and widespread opprobrium are made to face the law and prosecution in the law court,” Malami said.

In his speech at the ceremony, the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said that the theme of the conference was very important because it seeks to address today’s realities and to impact on the future of the country.

The governor, who was represented by the deputy governor, Obafemi Hamzat, stated that any profession that wants to continue to maintain standards and remains relevant in the new digital age must continue to reinvent itself.

He said with the new trend of having robots playing the role of lawyers in some climes, lawyers needed to step up in their knowledge of adopting the gains of technology in the delivery of their services to the country and the people.

The NBA president, Paul Usoro, said that the protection and preservation of the rule of law is a task that must be undertaken by the legal profession and by all Nigerians.

He stressed that without fairness and obedience to the rule of law there cannot be peace and justice in in the country.

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