A former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, on Thursday in Lagos canvassed for the establishment of an independent institution to regulate conducts of judicial officers.
Musdapher made the call at a lecture to mark the second anniversary of the National Mirror newspaper, noting that the National Judicial Council (NJC) was presently overburdened to investigate allegations of impropriety against judicial officers.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the lecture was on “Media and the Judiciary: A Necessary Symbiosis.”
According to him, investigating petitions and allegations of impropriety against judicial officers as well as contraventions of judicial code of conduct is too cumbersome for the NJC when viewed with other responsibilities of the council.
The immediate past CJN said that the council used to consider not less than 30 petitions against judges at every sitting, though most of the accusations were unsubstantiated with evidence.
“Besides, an independent institution with adequate statutory safeguards may be better positioned to deal with issues of discipline and removal, as opposed to an institution that is largely managed by those it is supposed to regulate.
“I strongly believe that the creation of such an institution is the only way to properly focus on the problem of judicial corruption in Nigeria,” he said.
Musdapher said the gains of the recent judicial reforms had been muddled and exasperated by the unfortunate consequences of the public spat between the former heads of the highest courts in the country.
He said the unresolved situation had further damaged the perception of the judiciary in the eye of the public.
The former CJN said the media and the judiciary had a symbiotic role to play in the promotion of the country’s democracy.
He said that just as the judges had a statutory duty to interpret the law, the media also had a duty to inform the public by publishing accurate, balanced and objective stories.
Musdapher said that the media’s duty and right to report also includes the right to criticize the ways courts work and the judgments the judges render.
“The right to disagree and criticize is part of the democratic process. It contributes, in the long run, to transparency and to confidence in the judiciary,’’ he said.
The foremost jurist, however, noted that the media, just like the judiciary, had unfortunately not lived up to its duty.
“Unfortunately, our current reality of deep rooted corruption or the perception of it on both sides of the divide appear to seriously undermine the credibility of both institutions in the eye of the Nigerian public.
“Fairly or unfairly, the public perception of judicial action in Nigeria is largely consistent with the general perception of government,’’ he said.
Musdapher admonished media practitioners to ensure accuracy in their reportage and avoid unnecessary sensationalism.
He said that the mistrust between the media and the judiciary could be resolved if the justice system acknowledged the essential role of the former in informing the public of legal developments.
The former CJN advised that there should be regular dialogue between the judiciary and the media to avoid distortion and unbalanced reportage.
He said that more than ever before in the history of Nigeria, the scourge of terrorism posed a challenge to the country.
“Boko Haram insurgency, political violence, corruption, kidnappings, bombings, murder, nepotism, tribalism and armed robbery are indicators of a failing state.
“These social upheavals clearly threaten the survival of the Nigerian nation and we all have a duty rise and stem the tide,’’ Musdapher said.
According to him, there is no objectivity in national discourse.
“Most newspaper articles and reports reveal an underlying sentimental pull that seems to outweigh the value of simple decency,’’ he said .
A book, “For Law, For Country: Conversations with the Bar and Bench’’, written by Mr Steve Ayorinde, the Editor-In-Chief of the National Mirror, was presented to the public at the occasion.