The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Dahiru Musdapher, has called for a new judicial code of ethics that would reflect current realities and challenges to tackle judicial corruption in the country, in order to ensure that “judges and the judicial system remain politically neutral and rise up to safeguard our fledgling democracy,” and to “immunize the entire judicial system against all identified iniquities.”
“Metaphorically a corrupt judge has been described as more harmful to the society than a man who runs amok with a dagger in a crowded street. The latter as you know can be restrained physically. But the former deliberately destroys the moral foundation of society and causes incalculable distress to individuals while still answering ‘honourable’,” he said.
Justice Musdapher said this on Thursday at the media roundtable on promoting ethics and integrity at the magistrate courts held at the Ikeja Airport Hotel, Lagos and organized by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Embassy.
Justice Musdapher, represented by the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Sunday Olorundahunsi, presented a keynote address titled: Promoting Magistrate Court Ethics, Integrity and Improving Citizens’ Access to Justice.
“Taking steps against corruption in the justice system should be a first step in dealing with corruption in society as a whole,” he said.
The CJN noted that there is dissatisfaction with the performance of the Judiciary in the country but bemoaned the control that the Executive Arm of government has over the Judiciary.
“The plight of state judiciaries is compounded by the fact that in spite of the best efforts of the NJC, the process of appointment and removal of judges/security of tenure is the subject of political discretion,” he said.
Mr. Musdapher also blamed this development on the judges.
“It is regrettable that some state chief executives treat the judiciary as an appendage of the executive arm. While it is true that, in some cases, this is self-inflicted (because of the way some judges conduct themselves), it does not invariably follow that a distinct arm of government should, because of the action of a few, be treated in a manner that compromises its independence and its integrity,” he added.
The CJN says that in an effort to increase transparency in the Judiciary, some of the actions taken under his leadership include working with Transparency International, an international organisation concerned with urging the reduction of corruption across countries.
“My office has worked to introduce a number of procedural changes that enhance transparency. In fact in that regard we have invited Transparency International, TI to oblige us its time-honoured experience and expertise in providing voluntary technical support/assistance to the Nigerian Judiciary.”