ICPC Chief, others deplore graft in judiciary

AGAIN, the effect of corruption in the judiciary and the need to cleanse the sector of all vices formed the fulcrum of discussion at a Media Round table on Magistrate Courts Ethics, integrity and improving Citizens’ Access to Justice organised yesterday in Lagos by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

Among those who spoke at the event with the theme: “Promoting Ethics and Integrity within the Courts system Towards Citizens Access To Justice,” were the acting chairman of the Independent Corrupt and Related Offences Practice Commission (ICPC), Ekpo Nta; a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Tayo Oyetibo; Lagos State Solicitor-General, Lawal Pedro (SAN); former House Committee Chairman on the Judiciary, Lagos House of Assembly, Babatunde Ogala and the Chief Registrar of the Lagos High Court, Ganiyu Safari.

In his remarks, Nta called for collective effort to check the menace in the sector, which he said was an integral aspect of the fight against graft in the country.

Represented by the Legal Director, ICPC, Mrs. Christiana Onuogu, Nta lamented the filing of interlocutory appeals by lawyers to stall quick dispensation of justice and called for special attention for corruption cases to ensure quicker adjudication of cases.

The ICPC boss also called for specialisation on the part of judges and the appointment of assistant judges to help man the courts.

To Oyetibo, the fight against corruption was a collective one and all hands must indeed be on deck in order to ensure a corrupt-free nation.

As a final arbiter in our criminal justice system, the court he said must be well-positioned and prepared, both intellectually and otherwise to handle the great challenge posed by the ever changing dynamics and face of corruption.

Oyetibo, who spoke on the role of the judiciary in combating corruption in Nigeria, called for inward cleansing of corruption and all the corruption perspective at the sector.

Meanwhile, stakeholders in Edo State yesterday charged the country’s judiciary on quick dispensation of justice, upholding human rights and ensuring equality before the law.

To enhance this, the state government said it would set up a Public Defender Unit in the state’s Ministry of Justice to provide free legal aid to victims of human rights abuses.

Governor Adams Oshiomhole stated this yesterday at the unveiling of Edo State High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2012 where he charged the state judiciary to expedite action on all cases before it.

He cautioned against unethical professional practices and unhealthy collaboration with the police.

The governor observed that too many people were being victimized and intimidated but were unable to fight for their rights.

Just recently, the police in the state arrested an innocent man and charged him for murder without any convincing evidence. This should never happen in a democracy. It is as bad as decree two under the military. When the police abuse their power by arresting innocent people, the judiciary should refuse to assist them to legalize it. I commend the courage of the judge hence who granted bail even as the police did not obey rules but also the second judge that finally granted the bail that the police had no choice but to comply with. I have now decided to set up a public defender unit that will provide free legal aid to all those who are victims of police abuse of power or by any functionary of the state.

Government may not be able to deliver food to all the citizens, but government must not tamper with the citizens’ right. I have directed the Ministry of Justice not to assist the police to detain innocent citizens.