Judiciary, Anti Corruption And Public Impact – A CSO”s Positon

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The Stakeholders Roundtable on Nigeria’s anti-corruption effort, with the theme: The Judiciary, Rule of law, and Public Interest, took place at the Primal Hotels Ltd, Ikeja Lagos, from 27-28 October, 2016. The meeting,   supported by Justice for All, a British Government support programme, was facilitated by Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights (CCIDESOR) and Development Measures GN. Participants at the roundtable were drawn from the CSOs across the country, the Judiciary and legal profession. Participants, experts and other professional, discussed presentations by lawyers and members of the judiciary in the light of recent corruption scandals which has brought the integrity of the judiciary to all time low, and which is capable of destroying the sector, which is the last hope of the common citizen, if urgent steps are not taken to restore citizens’ trust in the judiciary and administration of justice in Nigerian.
After expert presentations, deep analysis and discussions on issues hampering the Judiciary from contributing to the victory of anti-corruption war in Nigeria, the participants emphasized on the critical roles of the Judiciary (Judges and the judicial officers) in the administration of justice as it affects high profile corruption cases in Nigeria which have lingered for more than twelve years as well as current ones being investigated. Participants therefore suggested ways towards repositioning and rebuilding Nigeria’s justice system/judiciary for anti-corruption war to be successful and victorious.  At the end of the two day deliberation, the following observations were noted:
a)       That Justice and unfettered access to it is the foundation of good governance in any society.
b)      That the judiciary is the arbiter of justice, democracy and development
c)      That Incorruptible judiciary alone is a guarantee to a successful anti-corruption effort of Nigeria and the full eradication of corruption in Nigeria.
d)      That Judicial officers are high priests in the highly revered temple of justice and accorded respect otherwise only reserved for God, therefore should not be involved in any corruption that will prevent them from dispensing justice to all manner of Nigerians.
e)      That a compromised judiciary and judicial sector is a threat to Nigeria society and its development as a whole.
f)       That the Judiciary is and should remain the last hope of the common man.
g)      That the current effort at eradicating corruption in Nigeria remains high priority for all arms of government and people of Nigeria.
h)      That corruption in every other sector, arm or tier of government is condemnable; but corruption in the judiciary is more deadly to citizens, cancerous, totally unacceptable and requires far-reaching interventions since it is the last hope of the common man. 
i)        That an independent judiciary and judicial sector is a sine qua non for rule of law and proper administration of justice, the society must therefore work to preserve its independence.
j)        That preserving the integrity, independence and effectiveness of Nigeria’s justice system is not a job in the exclusive preservation of the judiciary, but the collective responsibility of the Nigerian society. This responsibility should be carried out with due respect to the rule of law.
k)      That the current anti-corruption effort, which should involve mass ofNigerians, should be open, transparent and enduring, with the view of creating an enduring system that will continuously curtail corruption in Judiciary, as well as executive and legislature.
l)        That some Judicial officers are alleged to be corrupt does not translate to the current generalization of the Judiciary as corrupt.
Following the above observations, the participants made the following recommendations:
To the Judiciary
1-        The judiciary being an arm of the government of the people must have mechanisms in place for direct accountability to citizens through open and accessible systems that are both proactive and timely reactive.
2-        There is an urgent need to strengthen performance management, oversight and discipline mechanisms of the Judiciary (Judicial Officers and Justice Sector staff).
3-        There is a need for the protection of judiciary independence and integrity, and prevent its intimidation from both the Politically Exposed Persons and other high profile suspects.
4-        The judiciary are themselves not above the law and judicial officers facing allegations of corruption must be dealt with according to the rule of law.
5-        That judicial officers being the supreme arbiters of the law and justice should be made to face stiffer penalties when found to be corrupt in the discharge of their sacred responsibilities.
6-        While vigorous corruption eradication measures are required in the Judiciary, there is a complimentary need for reward of honesty and review of the welfare of judicial officers as a motivation for honesty and prevention strategy.
7-        That the appointment of Judicial Officers should be made transparent and participatory so that only people with high integrity are appointed. There should also be regular sanctioning of corrupt judicial officers, while investigation and prosecution of officers are aired live to sanitize the judiciary, and restoring the public trust that is derailing.
The National Assembly (NASS)
8-        The NASS should take urgent step to review the enabling framework of the National Judicial Council (NJC), through a review of establishing law, for increased accountability and responsiveness. This may include an urgent review of NJC composition, structure and procedure to avoid conflict of interest in their internal disciplinary responsibility.
9-        Review enabling legislations of the Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs) with the aim of removing duplication of functions, merge to professionalise the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) in order to eliminate undue inter-agency rivalry and improve operational efficiency in the fight against corruption.
10-    Separate the offices of the Minister of Justice of Nigeria from that of the Attorney General of the Federation and same at the States level for a more effective anti-corruption impact.
The Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Agencies
11-    Under the Open Government Partnership commitment of the federal government of Nigeria, all ACAs and LEAs should be required to adopt the Open Data and Open Accountability regimes for increased transparency and responsiveness capable of assisting the Judiciary in the discharge of their duties.
12-    That since Equity requires people to come before it with clean hands, the Federal Government must consciously avoid public conclusions of state-witch-hunt against unfavourable judicial pronouncements. 
13-    That the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) presently constituted as a single tribunal is grossly inadequate to effectively address public sector breaches of codes and ethics which justifies the need for urgent establishment of more tribunal in the different geopolitical zones, for quick dispensation of cases.
14-    The framework for the CCT should be urgently reviewed to address issues of double standards and integrity deficit.
15-    That system of incentives should be quickly adopted to encourage public ownership and participation in the fight against corruption for increased depth and effectiveness.
16-     That more funds should be allocated to the ACAs for effective and efficient investigation and prosecution of crimes/corruption.
17-    The Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ) should urgently facilitate the adoption of a National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS), the Justice Sector Reform Strategy (JSRS) and the National Ethics and Integrity Policy, all of which will contribute to the reduction of corruption in the judiciary as well as in the other critical sectors.    
18-    That the ACAs should urgently establish public accountability forums for increased citizen’s engagement on their key performance indices to be defined in the National Anti-Corruption Strategy and their respective Strategic Plans.
To Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Nigeria Bar Association
20-    CSOs should work closely with the judiciary and lead the charge in advocating and campaigning for their integrity, professionalism and efficiency.
21-    CSOs should constantly educate citizens on the operations of judiciary and their framework for constant accountability demands and protection of clean Judiciary during any interference with their duties. .
22-    The CSOs should commence advocacy for the introduction and utilization of new technologies in terms of electronics and cyber-space in the justice system, so as to move away from the current sluggish analog system.
23-    That the NBA should also device a means to discipline corrupt lawyers who are also counterparts to the corrupt judicial officers to deter others from getting involved in corruption acts.
24-     The Rule of Law and due process must be the watchword for investigators and prosecutors, and investigation and prosecution agencies must avoid miscarriage of justice in all circumstances.
25-    CSOs should canvass for building of enduring systems that will sustain  successes achieved, and develop strategies that will place the real burden of eradication of corruption on citizens.
26-    The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) should be alert and responsive to the need of Nigerians by ensuring professionalism and integrity within the bar and promptly investigate and discipline its members who engage in unethical and corrupt conducts that undermines the efforts to stamp out corruption in the judiciary and the nation in general.
This communiqué is signed by the following participating persons on behalf of 26 participating organizations listed below,
Emeka Ononamadu                                                     Sulaimon Arigbabu
    Executive Director                                                              Civil Society Network Against Corruption
    Citizens Centre for Integrated Development                 (CSNAC)
    and Social Rights
Barr Jennifer Ukaobasi                                                        Hadiza Mohammed
Program Manager                                                               Executive Director
Development Measures                                                   Women’s Rights Initiative
List of Organizations that support this communiqué
1           Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights
2           Development Measures GN
3           Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria
4           Habitatcare and Development Initiatives
5           Centre for Constitutional Governance
6           Pro Active Gender Initiatives
7           Centre for Democracy and Development
8           Thinking Fellows
9           Human Rights Monitor
10       Nigeria Election Monitors
11       Koyenum Imallah Foundation
12       Publish What You pay
13       International Press Centre
14       PADDI International
15       Women’s Rights Initiative
16       Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre).
17       Freedom of Information Coalition
18       African Network for Environment and Economic Justice
19       MIVOC
20       Human Rights Volunteer Corps
21       Public Interest Coalition
22    African Centre for Human Advancement and Resources Support
23       Freedom of Information Coalition
24       Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC)
25       Proactive Gender Initiative
26       CHARS – Africa
27       CTA
28       International Press Centre
29       CCA
30       Justice Development and Peace Centre
Emeka J. Ononamadu
Executive Director
Citizens Center for Integrated Development & Social Rights
30 Mbari street, Ikenegbu Layout, Owerri,
Imo state, Nigeria
P.O Box 7338, Aladinma, Owerri
Mobile phone: 234 (0) 8037423140, 07042055965
08103268725. email: cintegratedev@yahoo.co.uk
Skype account: emeka.ononamadu


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