President Muhammadu Buhari’s claim that the judiciary is the biggest barrier to his administration’s anti-graft is causing ripples in the third arm of government.
Against this backdrop, the National Judicial Council (NJC) has identified extreme poor funding as one of the biggest stumbling blocks to improving performance of the judiciary.
At a visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last Sunday, Buhari said his main headache in the anti-graft war was the judiciary.
The president, however, pledged to do his best in conjunction with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, to improve justice administration in the country.
But, Chief Judge of Borno State and Chairman of the Judicial Information Technology Committee of NJC, Justice Kashim Zannah, said the nation’s judiciary was the most underfunded globally.
He said this when he appeared on Focus Nigeria, a breakfast programme on Africa Independent Television (AIT).
“Nobody is happy when your institution is seen as non-performing. We break our backs to work and we want to please our nation; we want to please the society…
“It (justice) is not a cheap thing. You can’t get justice cheap. You go for cheap justice, you get cheap justice. The judiciary of Nigeria, per capita, per case, is probably the most underfunded in the world …
Also reacting to the development, Mr. Gordy Uche (SAN) said the president was misinformed about the judiciary.
“This (Buhari) is a retired general who just came back to power. What does he know about the judiciary? When did he go to the courts last? He continues to blame the judiciary for things that are not their fault. People will say the courts are delaying high profile criminal matters; it’s not true. Most of the time, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is not ready with a complete investigation. All they do is to advertise these high profile cases on television, on radio and on the Internet. After they arraign the high profile persons, when you now call them to come and prove their case in court, they won’t come…”
On his part, human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) insisted that the president’s statements were a pre-emptive strike to cow the judiciary in the trial of corruption cases.
“The judiciary,” he said, “rather than being a stumbling block, has been the last hope of the common man, the beacon of hope in our nascent democracy. The judiciary, of the three arms of government, is the least corrupt, the least funded, the most intimidated, the most harassed and the most disrespected. It has only judgment; it doesn’t have arms and ammunition to enforce its judgments..”