FG And Many Reforms Carried Out By Judiciary

FG And Many Reforms Carried Out By Judiciary

In a letter dated October 10, 2018, addressed to the Senate President, President Muhammadu Buhari gave reasons why he declined his assent to 17 bills passed by the National Assembly.

Among the 17 Bills is the Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 20 (Submission from the Judiciary). President Buhari said he declined his assent on the Judiciary reform bill base on former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen’s advice. The advice has remained shrouded in secrecy but that caused the entire judiciary reform bill from been signed into law. Of course, by the time the 8th National Assembly’s tenure ends all pending bills became functus officio, expired or dead.

Senate on July 26, 2017 had by votes of 95 to 2 passed the Bill tagged, ‘’A Bill for an Act to alter the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to further strengthen the Judiciary for speedy dispensation of Justice and for related matters, 2017’’
The bill was based on the ‘’Proposals for the Amendment of the 1999 Constitution’’ drawn from the report of the 28 wise men constituted by the former CJN, the late Justice Dahiru Musdapher (GCON). The 28-man Committee, of course had four former CJNs namely, Justices Muhammadu Uwais (chairman), S.M.A. Belgore, Idris L. Kutigi and A.I. Katsina-Alu as members, the last two are now late.

That Justice Uwais panel as it is called had three other retired justices of the Supreme Court – Justices Kayode Eso, A.G. Karibi-Whyte and Umaru A. Kalgo; also had Justices Mamman Nasir, Mustapha Akanbi and Umaru Abdullahi (all late except the last one) who were former Presidents of the Court of Appeal (PCA).

Others are Justices R.P.I. Bozimo (now NJI Administrator) and Rose N. Ukeje as former Chief Judges, and Justice Lawal Hassan Gummi as the then Chief Judge of FCT with former AGFs in the panel such as the late Chief Richard O.Akinjide (SAN) and Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim (SAN).
It also include former NBA Presidents; T.J.O. Okpoko (SAN), Wole Olanipekun (SAN), O.C.J. Okocha (SAN), Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Oluwarotimi O. Akeredolu (SAN) and Prince Lanke Odogiyan, Esq in addition to Joseph Daudu (SAN) who was a serving NBA President then.
Other SANs in the panel are Dr. A.G.F. AbdulRazak, Anthony O. Mogboh and A.B. Mahmud. Hajiya Hairat Balogun, Prof. Epiphany Azinge (SAN) (then Director-General, NIALS), Dr. Mamman Tahir (then Director-General, Nigerian Law School) were also in the panel.
Constitution amendment proposals tagged ‘’Review of Constitutional Provisions on Administration of Justice, Fundamental Human Rights and related Matters’’ was summited to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on December 15, 2012.

JUDICIARY REFORM BILL EX-CJN ASKED PRESIDENT TO DECLINE ASSENT
However, the legislature drew a Bill from the ‘submission of the judiciary’ which it said may be cited as the ‘’Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Citation Alteration, No.20) Bill, 2018’’.
Specifically, it was marked a Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to further strengthen the Judiciary for speedy dispensation of justice; and for related matters; enacted by the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
1The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (in this Bill referred to as “the Principal Act”) is amended as set out in this Bill.
2. Section 233 of the Principal Act is altered by –
(a) deleting subsection (2) (a); and (b) substituting for subsection (4), a new subsection “(4)” — “(4) Three Justices of the Supreme Court sitting in Chambers may dispose of any application for leave to appeal from any decision after consideration of the record of proceedings if the Justices are of the opinion that the interest of justice does not require an oral hearing of the application and such decision shall be final.”
3. Section 237 (2) of the Principal Act is altered by substituting for paragraph (b), a new subparagraph “(b)”– “(b) such number of Justices of the Court of Appeal, not less than one hundred of which at least twelve shall be learned in the law and practice of industrial relations and employment conditions, not less than three learned in Islamic Personal Law, and not less than three learned in Customary Law, as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.”
4 Section 241 of the Principal Act is altered by inserting, after subsection (1), a new subsection “(1A) – “(1A) A Court or Tribunal shall not stay any proceeding on account of interlocutory appeal.”
Section 243 of the Principal Act is altered by substituting for subsection 3 a new subsection “(3)” – (3) An appeal shall lie from the decision of the National industrial court to the Court of Appeal only with leave of the Court Of Appeal and such decision shall be final
6. Section 246 of the Principal Act is altered by inserting, after subsection (1): a new subsection (1a) – “(1A) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, no appeal shall lie to the court of appeal from any decision of an election appeal shall lie to the Court of Appeal in respect of an interlocutory decision;”
7. Section 247 of the Principal Act is altered by inserting, after subsection (1), a new subsection (2)’ — “(2) Three Justices of the Court of Appeal sitting in Chambers may dispose of any application for leave to appeal from any decision after consideration of the record of proceedings if the Justices are of the opinion that the interest of justice does not require an oral hearing of the application”.
8. Section 250 (1) of the Principal Act is altered, by substituting for the word, “advice”, in line 2, the word, “recommendation”.
9. Section 267 of the Principal Act is altered by inserting, after the word, “Law” in line 4, the words, “and related matters.”
10. Section 281 (l) of the Principal Act is altered, by substituting for the word, “advice”, in line 3, the word, “recommendation”.
11. Section 282 (1) of the Principal Act is altered by inserting, after the word, “Law”, in line 3, the words, “and related matters”.
12. Section 291 (3) of the Principal Act is altered –
(a) in paragraph (a), by substituting for the word, “fifteen”, in line 1, the word, “ten”; and
(b) in paragraph (b), by substituting for the word, “fifteen”, in line 1, the word, “ten”.
13. Part I of the Third Schedule to the Principal Act is altered
(a) in paragraph 12 – (i) subparagraph (b), by inserting, after the word, “Appeal”, the words, “who shall be the Deputy Chairman”,
(ii) by substituting for subparagraph (0), a new subparagraph “(c)” ,_

“(c) Minister of Justice”;
(b) in paragraph 13, by substituting for subparagraph (c), a new subparagraph “(c)”
“(c) appoint, promote and exercise disciplinary control over the Chief Registrars and Deputy Chief Registrars of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, Federal High Court, the National Industrial Court, Code of Conduct Tribunal and all other members of staff of the Judicial Service of the Federation not otherwise specified in this Constitution and of the Federal Judicial Service Commission”; and

c) by substituting for paragraph 20, a new paragraph “20” “20.-(1) The National Judicial Council shall comprise (a) the Chief Justice of Nigeria, who shall be the Chairman;
(b) the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, who shall be the Deputy Chairman; (c) the President of the Court of Appeal; (d) three retired Justices of the Supreme Court, to serve for a period of three years only; (e) two retired Justices of the Court of Appeal, to serve for a period of three years only; (f) the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court; (g) the President of the National Industrial Court; (h) three Chief Judges to serve in rotation for two years; (i) one retired Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, one retired President of the National Industrial Court and one retired Chief Judge of a State High Court to serve for a period of three years only; (j) one Grand Kadi of a Sharia Court of Appeal to be appointed from among the Grand Kadis of the Sharia Courts of Appeal to serve in rotation for two years only; (k) one President of a Customary Court of Appeal to be appointed from among the Presidents of the Customary Courts of Appeal to serve in rotation for two years only; (l) the President of the Nigerian Bar Association to serve for a period of two years only; (m) four senior members of the Nigerian Bar Association who have been qualified to practice for a period of not less than ten years, nominated by the National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association to serve for a period of two years only; and (n) two Persons not being legal practitioners, Who: in the opinion of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, are 0f unquestionable integrity.

(2)The Chief Justice of Nigeria shall, in exercising his power of appointment of members under subparagraph (1) of this paragraph, consult other Justices of the Supreme Court”; and (d) by substituting for subparagraph (a), a new subparagraph “(a)” — “(a) recommend to the President from among the list of persons submitted to it by the Federal Judicial Service Commission, persons for appointment to the offices of Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Justices of the Supreme Court, the President and Justices of the Court of Appeal, the Chief judge and Judges of the Federal High Court, the President and Judges of the National Industrial Court, the Chief judge and Judges of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Chairman and Members of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Grand Kadi and Kadis of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and the President and Judges of the Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”

  1. Part II, of the Third Schedule to the Principal Act is altered in paragraph 5 by (a) inserting, after subparagraph (a), a new subparagraph “(aa)” – “(aa) the next most senior Head of Court who shall be the Deputy Chairman”; and (b) substituting for subparagraph (b), a new subparagraph “(b)” – “(b) Commissioner for Justice”
  2. Part III of the Third Schedule to the Principal Act is altered (a) by deleting the word, “EXECUTIVE” in the heading; (b) in paragraph 1, by substituting for subparagraph (b), a new subparagraph “(b)” – “(b) the next most senior Head of Court who shall be the Deputy Chairman”; (c) by Substituting for paragraph 2 (c), a new paragraph “2(c)
    “2 (c). The Committee shall have the power to appoint, promote and exercise disciplinary control over the Chief Registrar and Deputy Chief Registrars of the High Court, the Sharia Court of Appeal and the Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, if any, Magistrates, Area Court Judges, Customary Court Judges, and all other members of staff of the judicial service of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja not otherwise specified in this Constitution and of the Judicial Service Committee of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja”.

  3. The Constitution (Third Alteration No. 3, 2011) is further altered (a) in section 6, by inserting, after heading CC, a new heading “CD” “CD Code of Conduct Tribunal”; and (b) in section 13 (a), by inserting, after the word, “Court”, in line 1, the words, “Chairman and member of the Code of Conduct Tribunal”.

  4. Paragraph 15 of the Fifth Schedule to the Principal Act is altered – (a) in subparagraph ( 1), by substituting for the words, “a Chairman and two other persons”, in line 2, new paragraphs “(a)” and “(b)” -(a) a Chairman of the Code ‘of Conduct Tribunal; and (b) such number of members of the Code of Conduct Tribunal not less than twenty-four as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly”; (b) by substituting for subparagraph (3), a new subparagraph “(3)”- “(3) The Code of Conduct Tribunal shall be duly constituted if it consists of at least three members of the tribunal ”; and (c) by inserting, after subparagraph (3), new subparagraphs “(3A)”“(3C)”

“(3A) A person shall not be qualified to hold or perform the functions of the office of the Chairman or member of the Code of Conduct Tribunal unless he is qualified to practice as a legal practitioner in Nigeria and has been so qualified for a period of not less than ten years.

(3B) If the office of the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal is vacant or the person holding such office is, I for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office, then until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of that office, or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the President shall appoint the most senior member of the Code of Conduct Tribunal to perform those functions.

(3c). Except on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council, an appointment made under made under sub-paragraph .(3B) 0f this paragraph Shall cease to have effect after the expiration of three months from the date of such appointment, and the President shall not re-appoint a person whose appointment has lapsed.

JUDICIARY INTERNAL REFORMS
In line with Section 160 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which empowers bodies like the judiciary to make ‘’rules or otherwise regulate its own procedure or confer powers and impose duties on any officer or authority for the purpose of discharging its functions’’, the judiciary has in the absence of the amendment of some provisions of the constitution or laws of the federation made rules to govern its functions. Such rules or regulations include the followings:

Former CJN Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar issued on November 15, 2013, the Supreme Court (Criminal Appeals) Practice Directions, 2013, enjoining all Criminal Appeals relating to the offences of Terrorism, Rape, Kidnapping, Corruption, Money Laundering and Human Trafficking to be heard and determined expeditiously. This is against clamour for the creation of special courts to fast-track speedy trial of criminal or anti-corruption cases.

The ‘’Revised 2014 NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Record in Nigeria’’ was made and came into force on November 3, 2014. It dictates steps required to follow the appointment of judges in the country.

The need for a change in the criteria for the appointment of Judicial Officers in Nigeria prompted the National Judicial Council to come up with the ‘’new Revised NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Record in Nigeria 2014’’. It was clear that the old Guidelines and Rules had become unworkable as it saw anachronisms such as the limitation that saw only Justices of the Court of Appeal, as of right, making it to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Under the new, more rigorous and transparent rules, any qualified legal practitioner with the requisite intellect has the opportunity of making it to any Court in the land and even to the posts of Heads of Federal and States Superior Courts, including the Chief Justice of Nigeria. This also to ensure that the overall appointments procedure maintains the institutional integrity of the judicial appointment process while ensuring that only the most competent persons are elevated.

In 2016, the NJC revised the ‘’Code of Conduct’’ for judicial officers in the country. The code of conduct is meant to guide the judicial officers to maintain, enforce and observe a high standard of conduct that will ensure and preserve transparent, integrity and respect for the independence of the judiciary.

The NJC had also developed a ‘’Judicial Discipline Regulations’’ which came into force on November 3, 2014. The Regulations govern allegations and complaints of misconduct against judicial officers and proceedings initiated in exercise of the power of the NJC to exercise disciplinary control over judicial officers against whom allegation of misconduct has been made.

The NJC had enacted the ‘’National Judicial Policy’’ which came to force on April 2016. NJC is enjoined by the 1999 Constitution to collect, control and disburse all moneys, capital and recurrent, for the judiciary to deal with all matters relating to policy and administration.

By September 26, 2017, NJC announced the constitution of 15-member committee tagged ‘’Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO). The council set up the committee as part of judicial reforms the CJN to ensure that the judiciary dispenses justice promptly on corruption cases in compliance with the letters and spirit of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.

Source: leadership.ng