CJN warns judges against issuance of ‘reckless remand orders’

Chief Justice of Nigeria Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen

CHIEF Justice of Nigeria Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen has directed judges against issuance of remand orders in cases where police lack concrete evidence to sustain criminal allegations or where the court does not have the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

Justice Onnoghen, who gave the directive yesterday at the opening of the 2018 All Nigerian Judges’ Conference of the lower courts at the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Abuja, urged them to pay frequent visits to police stations within their jurisdictions to check on detainees in cells.

He said detainees with no prima facie case against them or who have been unduly detained without bail should be assessed on a first hand basis.

The CJN said: “Reckless remand orders must not be issued by your courts, where it appears that the police lack evidence to prosecute a criminal matter or your courts do not possess the requisite jurisdiction to entertain such matter.”

Justice Onnoghen also decried the level of prisons’ congestion, describing it as a “national embarrassment”.

He added: “The numerous and sometimes needless remand orders issued by magistrates are a major factor responsible for the congestion of our prisons.

“I must emphasise at this forum the need for Heads of Courts, in synergy with the various Attorneys-General of states, to pay frequent visits to prison facilities within their jurisdictions in a bid to assess the situation on a first hand basis.”

On full financial independence for state judiciaries, the CJN said: “The funding of the judiciary is crucial as the most important index for assessing its independence.

“It is clear that the litmus test to determine how free and democratic any nation is would be to take a cursory look at its judiciary to find out, if the executive is prepared to obey the principle of Separation of Powers.

“The judiciary is a vital partner in governance. The complete and real independence of the judiciary is thus a reflection of the nation and of freedom.”

He maintained that the independence of the judiciary could only be sustained and guaranteed when there is no interference by the other arms of government in the discharge of its constitutional duties.

NJI Administrator Justice R. P. I. Bozimo, in her welcome address, said the conference was a stocktaking event for judges of the lower courts from all over the country to converge and reflect upon the activities of the judiciary and to cross fertilise ideas on the way forward.

The biennial event with the theme: “Improving the quality of justice administration in the lower court”, according to Bozimo, was timely, considering the role the lower courts play in the legal system.

She noted that the judiciary can only grow, if it embarks on reforms to uphold and protect the rights of the citizens.

Justice Bozimo added: “The theme of this year’s conference is sacrosanct as the judiciary is and has always been the fulcrum of good governance in any country.

“As such, the judiciary has a major role to play in upholding constitutional democracy to ensure that justice is not only done but is seen to be done in order to accomplish the goal of enhancing our democracy.

“The theme of this year’s conference, therefore, is timely, considering the role which your category of courts plays in our legal system.”

 

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