Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, has warned lawyers in the country to desist from writing petitions against judicial officers directly to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The CJN who stated this in his speech at the opening of the new legal year and conferment of Senior Advocate on 22 lawyers, said the constitution clearly placed the power to exercise discretionary control over judicial officers in the NJC.
Mahmud who also warned lawyers not to malign judicial officers, gave judges in the country a marching order to deal with any lawyer who maligns them.
The CJN said: “It is therefore of great concern and wonder, the growing trend by our lawyers, litigants and even members of the public to route complaints against judicial officers to the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I am most dismayed that legal practitioners who ought to better appreciate the need for the independence of their primary constituency would engage in the misguided practice.
“This dangerous new trend has borne itself out with various complaints ranging from disparaging remarks against judges of our superior courts, to unprecedented, unwarranted and unfortunate personal attack on judicial officers.”
The CJN also warned that judges who recently gave conflicting judgements from same courts are currently under investigation with a promised that appropriate actions would be taken against them.
He said: “Let me state before that the case of courts of coordinate jurisdiction giving conflicting judgments will be addressed. All the judges involved are being investigated and action will be taken against them accordingly.
“It is therefore of great concern that lawyers, litigants and even members of the public route complaints against judicial officers to the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“I am most dismayed that legal practitioners who ought to better appreciate the need for the independence of their primary constituency would engage in this misguided practice.
“I must admit that these cases were particularly distasteful and have been marked for action against the erring counsel by the LPDC.”
While emphasising that appointment of persons to the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria is a clear procedure that must be followed, the CJN warned against politicising the office.
Earlier, Chief Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN) who spoke on behalf of the body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, described as embarrassing the show of shame brought about by court of co-ordinate jurisdiction assuming jurisdiction to hear the same dispute between parties.
He called on the regulatory authorities to step in immediate to do the damage control so as to save the justice system from further ridicule.
“Conflicting judgements go to the very root of the judicial system. If the established principle that trial courts have no power to set aside their own judgement except in well-established circumstances, the principle that courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction cannot overtime themselves or set aside each other’s judgement and that the court of appeal itself cannot over rule itself are all in place, one wonders how come conflicting judgements still rear their ugly heads.
“The NJC has to let Nigerians know what went wrong and what measures have been taken to prevent re-occurrence,” he said.
On his part, president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Abubakar Mahmoud, reiterated that the NBA under his watch would fight judicial corruption.
“Under my watch, we shall make the legal profession unattractive for corrupt lawyers. We will ensure that the NBA does not become a sanctuary of miscreant lawyers,” he said.
He also commended the innovations of the CJN in the judiciary and added that the NBA would soon convey a high level leaders’ summit to discuss important issues affecting the judiciary as well as proffer solutions.