The former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba, has said that the National Judicial Council (NJC) needs to heed the points that were raised by retired Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad in his valedictory speech in order to address the ‘rot’ in Nigeria’s judicial system.
Agbakoba also emphasized that Dattijo’s speech was not in any way impugning the character of Chief Justice Olukayode Ariwoola but was addressing the inconsistencies of the office in itself.
In an interview with ARISE NEWS on Monday, Agbakoba stated that the corruption that Dattijo mentioned in his recent speech was also mentioned by Justice Samson Uwaifo in his valedictory speech in 2004, and as such, this had been a long-standing issue.
Agbakoba then said that he is in full support of what Dattijo said. He stated, “I think what lessons we should draw from what Justice Dattijo had said is to implement a report that was put together by the, in my view, perhaps the most reformist CJN in Nigeria, that is, the late Justice Dahiru Mustapha,” explaining that if this report is implemented, it will take care of all the issues.
He went on to say that “The problem with judges is that they have no clue as to judicial administration versus administration of justice.”
According to Agbakoba, Dattijo used the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to describe the ‘rot’ that is occurring in the legal system, and not Ariwoola himself, saying, “He really wasn’t attacking the current CJN. He was referring more to the institutional lapses that has occurred over the last God knows how long now.”
He mentioned that the situation with the Supreme Court is ‘toxic’, and it needs to change.
Agbakoba then noted that Nigerians have a habit of vilifying the judiciary when the actual problem lay within the agencies. He said, “The difference between a judge of the high court and the CJN is like God in heaven and somebody on earth. We need to really really take the opportunity of the lesson I think Dattijo Muhammed’s valedictory- which has been the most candid- has given us. It’s to understand where we are in the judiciary, and if we want to reverse judicial failure, then the current NJC must implement it.”
The former NBA president, giving his opinion on the solution to these issues, said, “Public opinion of the judiciary is at its lowest ebb, and I think that this is something that the judiciary ought to take very serious. They ought to take the points made by Justice Dattijo Mohammed extremely serious.”
He said that it is up to the judiciary to work on the things Dattijo mentioned otherwise, “the judiciary is going to go downhill.”
“Of the three arms of government- the executive, the legislature, and the judicacio, the most undemocratic is actually the judiciary, so that’s where the problem is. So, what I would recommend to the current NJC is to have a very good look at the report, update it, and absolutely remove the powers of the CJN to be everywhere,” he said.