‘’I have watched since these while, regarding the views of many, that judiciary is the last hope of common man, while I took an objection, I dare say that not until judgments is given and exhausted, going through all the stages of appellate courts with competent jurisdiction, and for it to be implemented without any delay and without not disobedience to court orders, it remains an ordinary paper which eventually cannot guarantee any hope’’
Justice Walter Onnoghen made this revelation on Wednesday while attending to question during senate confirmation at the hallowed chamber
Justice Onnoghen, who had been acting as CJN since November 10, 2016, was cleared after long walk in acting capacity with much controversy that eventually delayed his confirmation, coming with intensive screening which lasted for an hour and 10 minutes in the Senate.
With his confirmation, he emerged the first southerner to become CJN in 30 years after Justice Ayo Irikife.
Answering questions from the senators on the rampant cases of corruption in the judiciary, the new CJN who admitted that the Nigerian judiciary was a product of a corrupt society, said he would preside over a judiciary that is strong-willed and of unquestionable integrity.
He also assured his audience that the judiciary over which he would preside would emerge from its present predicament and image crisis as a reformed and vibrant organ of state.
“The judiciary is part of the society. There is corruption everywhere but efforts are being made to check it, in accordance with our rules. The judiciary under my watch will be strong-willed.
“The judiciary under my watch will be of unquestionable integrity. I believe that the judiciary will come out of the present situation stronger,” he pledged.
He also assured the senators that the judiciary under his leadership would not be compromised, explaining that once the judiciary of any nation “is politicised, that is going to be the end of that country”.
Justice Onnoghen also warned against unfounded accusations against judges, stating that whenever that is done, “you are dealing with the privileges of men and women who have no privilege of talking back”.
He also said the judiciary had no issue with calls for the establishment of a separate court for the trial of corruption cases with a view to speeding up the course of justice.
However, he said merely setting up a separate court for corruption matters would not solve the problem, if the handlers of the cases fail to dutifully carry out their responsibilities.
According to him, there are three principal figures involved in every matter – the investigator, the prosecutor and the judge – pointing out that if any of the personalities fails to thoroughly discharge his/her responsibilities, it will lead to frequent adjournment of cases and prolonged trials.
He cautioned that except the existing system is improved upon, the establishment of new courts would make no difference.
Justice Onnoghen also spoke on the rampant cases of conflicting judgments in the courts, observing that the problem was not totally alien to the course of adjudication.
However, he identified two factors responsible for conflicting judgments, saying a conflicting judgment may arise when a plaintiff files a suit on one matter in a state and files another in another state.
According to him, the processes will not be the same, submitting that while the judge in the first state can reserve judgment, the other may dismiss it, depending on the existing processes in each state.
Secondly, he said conflicting judgments could also arise when several appeals emanate from a single case, pointing out that a conflicting judgment in such instance occurs when a judge does not thoroughly examine all the appeals before delivering his judgment.
Looking undeterred by the risk of losing his confirmation, he did not mince words when he slammed the senators along with other politicians, whom he accused of bringing cases to the Supreme Court when they actually know that such cases ought to terminate at the Appeal Court.
He cautioned politicians, whom he said had cultivated the habit, and disclosed that a new arrangement was being evolved which would ensure that any lawyer who brings a case designed to terminate at the Appeal Court to the Supreme Court, would be made to fund the proceedings as penalty for failing to properly advise his client.
His statement, however, prompted Senate President Bukola Saraki to end the screening session abruptly and asked the nominee to “take a bow and go”.
But Saraki’s unilateral decision generated protests from his colleagues who said they were denied the opportunity to ask the acting CJN critical questions.
Nevertheless, Saraki in his remarks, charged the new CJN to ensure that the judiciary is entrenched during his tenure as the last hope of the common man.
Saraki also congratulated Justice Onnoghen on his confirmation as the CJN, describing it as another milestone in the history of Nigeria’s democracy.