The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen says the independence of the Judiciary can only be sustained and guaranteed when there is no interference by the other arms of government in the discharge of its duties.
Onnoghen, who stated this at the 2017 All Nigerian Judges’ conference organised by the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Abuja, said closely linked to the independence of the judiciary was the need for governments and institutions to always obey court orders and judgments.
“Today, Nigerians easily refer to the recent Supreme Court judgment in Kenya and some Court Orders in the United States of America and conclude that the Judiciaries in those countries are doing better than ours.
“They, however, forget to mention that President Uhuru Kenyatta promply accepted the judgment annulling his victory in the August 8 Presidential election and agreed to a re-run against his opponent.
“In similar fashion, the United States Department of Immigration did not wait for a presidential directive to allow immigrants from seven Muslim countries continued access to the US as soon as a court struck down President Donald Trump’s Executive Order banning citizens of these countries from entering America,” he explained.
According to the CJN, the litmus test to find out how free and democratic any nation is, is to take a cursory look at its Judiciary to find out what powers the nation is prepared to concede to this vital partner in governance.
Craving financial autonomy
Onnoghen also said that funding of the Judiciary was the most important and critical indices for assessing its independence.
The CJN said though it might be true that the Judiciary at the Federal level enjoyed full financial independence, the same could not be said of the State Judiciaries.
He maintained that the issue of adequate funding at the state level was one of the greatest challenges confronting the nation’s judicial system.
He, therefore, advocated for the amendment of the applicable provisions of the 1999 Constitution to solve the lingering problems of State Judiciaries.