A retiring judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Bello, yesterday, called for caution as the National Judicial Council, NJC, intensifies its effort to determine the culpability or otherwise of about 23 judges accused of complicity in acts of judicial malpractices, and adduced reasons for the seeming widespread corruption within the judiciary.
Justice Bello, who bowed out of active judicial service on December 31, 2013, after clocking the 70 years mandatory retirement age, during a valedictory court session in his honour at the headquarters of the High Court, in Abuja, fingered poverty and lack of welfare package for judges as key factors behind the spate of judicial impunity currently ravaging the country.
Consequently, he maintained that while it was right and proper for the NJC to discipline erring judges, it should also intensify efforts to secure the welfare of judges and protect their tenure.
“I will not end my speech without making few comments on the state of the Nigerian judiciary. I am one of those who believe that the Nigerian judiciary is among the best in the world.
“We may have our ups and downs and even habour some bad eggs, but that does not give anyone the licence to lampoon the whole institution of the judiciary like it is being done in this country.
“Our critics should tread softly and avoid undermining the whole institution of the judiciary while exercising their right to criticise for good reasons. The judiciary can and has always tried to sanitise itself through the instrumentality of the National Judicial Council, NJC, under the able leadership of the honourable, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mariam Aloma Muhktar.
“Other organs of government do not have such internal disciplinary control mechanism to deal with their erring officials. The judiciary therefore deserves commendation rather than condemnation.
“The reform being carried out by the NJC to improve on justice delivery is a step in the right direction, but care must be taken when it comes to the discipline of judges, so that the baby is not thrown away with the bathwater.
“While it is right and proper for NJC to discipline erring judges, it should also intensify efforts to secure the welfare of judges and protect their tenure,” Bello said.