The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has condemned disregard for court rulings, saying it is an act of impunity that is threatening the independence of the judiciary.
Mr. Onnoghen made this point on Wednesday at the Senate during his screening for confirmation as the substantive CJN, having been so recommended by the National Judicial Council, NJC, and nominated for the position by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.
Fielding questions from the lawmakers, Mr. Onnoghen said the challenge of disobedience to court orders “is for the legislature and the executive to handle.”
He said the judiciary would welcome that day that court judgements would be respected and carried out after exhaustion of the right of appeal.
That will mean the independence of the judiciary, he added.
If rulings are not respected, the judge continued, they would just be “mere piece of paper.”
“Anyway, disobedience of court order is an act of impunity,” he said. ‘But excuse me from further comments.”
Mr. Onnoghen said this amid growing criticisms of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration for disregard for the rule of law.
The government has ignored repeated rulings to free the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, Ibrahim Zakzaky and former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
Specialized Anti-Corruption Trial
Mr. Onnoghen said the judiciary had no problem with establishment of special courts to try corruption cases.
‘If the government wants to establish courts, we won’t say no,” he said.
However, he stressed that effective criminal investigation involves three parts: effective and thorough investigation; proper prosecution; and the judge.
On corruption in the judiciary, he said, “the judiciary is part of the society and we all know there’s corruption everywhere.”
Although he asked to be excused from commenting on the trials of judges for corruption as doing so would be prejudicial, he reassured that the bench can boast of “strong-willed, determined judicial officers with unquestionable integrity who have put their best to service.”
“I believe you don’t have to see a judge before you get justice.”
Mr. Onnoghen welcomed improved inter-governmental relationship but warned it should not be at the expense of the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
“Justice does not know anybody; that’s why that lady (effigy of justice) is blindfolded.”
Mr. Onnoghen was later confirmed by the Senate as substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria.