NJC plans to stop publication of petitions against judges

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It was gathered that the National Judicial Council is set to bar media reportage of allegations of misconduct levelled against judges and employees of the judiciary.

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This is contained in the National Judicial Policy to be launched by the NJC on Monday and which will widen the dark veil that shields disciplinary proceedings against judges.

Under the new policy, the NJC or any institutions of the judiciary shall discard a complaint sent against a judge or employee of the judiciary for investigation if after receiving the complaint it is leaked or discussed in the media.

The policy partly read, “lt shall be the policy of the judiciary on complaints that allegations of misconduct against judicial officers or employees of the judiciary shall not be leaked or published in the media.

“Where complaints on allegations against judicial officers and court employees are submitted for investigation, the complainant or complainants shall be made to give an undertaking not to do anything to prejudice investigation or actions that may be taken.

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“The institutions of the judiciary concerned with investigation or and implementation of decisions taken on such complaints shall be obliged to cease further action where such complaints are leaked or discussed in the media.

“Where such a leakage is occasioned after the submission of a complaint then all investigations on the complaints shall be suspended, the leakage investigated and if such leakage is from the complainant on through other parties known to such a complainant, such a complaint should be discarded.

“Where such leakage is occasioned prior to the presentation of the complaint and the source of the leakage is found to be the complainant or through other parties known to and connected with the complainant then such complaint shall not be accepted, upon submission, by the appropriate disciplinary body.

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“Upon the conclusion of any investigation, the judicial disciplinary bodies may allow public disclosure of their findings, subject to following the proper channels for such disclosure.”

This is coming at a time when the NJC, the body vested with disciplinary powers over judges at all levels, is under public attack for either allegedly shielding corrupt judges or merely giving those found culpable a slap on the wrist.

The criticism of the NJC was sparked by the arrest of seven judges including two serving justices of the Supreme Court over alleged corruption allegations.

In the wake of the arrests, the arresting agency, the Department of State Services, said it took the step after the NJC allegedly rebuffed complaints against some of the arrested judges.

But the NJC has since denied the allegation of shielding corrupt judicial officers.

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The new policy was prepared by the NJC in April 2016 but will only be launched under the chairmanship of the outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed on Monday.

It covers issues such as judicial appointment policy, judicial discipline policy, judicial code of conduct policy, judicial education and training policy, judicial performance policy, case flow management policy, judicial administration and court management policy and transparency and anti-corruption policy, among others.

The new policy tends to tie the hands of those who have submitted complaints against judges from taking any other step until the NJC completes its investigation.

The policy says, any judiciary institution that receives a complaint a judge or any court employee shall make the complainant to give undertaking not to do anything to prejudice investigation.

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