The need for dedicated courts to try graft cases and other special crimes yesterday formed the plank of President Muhammadu Buhari’s advocacy for a reform of the judiciary.
He urged judicial officers to work towards the creation of special courts to assist in the speedy administration and dispensation of justice.
He spoke in Abuja at the opening ceremony of the 2019 biennial All Nigeria Judges’ Conference of Superior Courts.
He said: “I will advise that the conference should, in its deliberations, consider how to create an efficient structure for the proposed Special Crimes Courts or the urgent designation of existing courts as Special Courts with competent and credible judicial officers in order to remove administrative bottlenecks in the judicial process.”
The president said he was not unaware of the challenges facing the judiciary, over which he had had discussions with the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad.
“The government has been committed to a number of justice sector reforms such as review of extant laws and enactment of new laws that will improve the lives of Nigerians.
“Additionally, we have worked closely with the Chief Justice of Nigeria to ensure that judicial budgetary allocations are enhanced in view of the needs of the judiciary. I have strongly supported the increase in number of judges at High Courts, Appeal Courts and the Supreme Court in order to reduce the burden of the work placed on judicial officers. I will continue to do so,” he said.
According to the president, his administration is committed to the economic revival of the country, especially by attracting foreign investments as well as fighting corruption and insecurity.
He, therefore, solicited the support of the judiciary in this regard.
“Economic progress can only be sustained in an atmosphere of the rule of law where justice is guaranteed. I must therefore express my hope that this conference will achieve its objective of articulating interventions by which this administration’s drive to improve transparency, security, and the expeditious adjudication of commercial, corruption related crimes, including economic and financial crimes matters could be enhanced,” he stated.
Buhari told the gathering that the constitutional mandate to check and balance governmental powers among the three arms of government creates the environment for continuous constructive engagement and as such, judges should use the opportunity of the conference to reaffirm their constitutional role as the ultimate arbiters on constitutional and social issues.
He also lauded the dedication of the judiciary in the timely dispensation of electoral disputes and urged them to do more.
Buhari said: “I am proud to observe that the judiciary both before and after the elections has improved in its ability to conclude election matters in a timely manner. There is still room for improvement and I urge the Chief Justice to initiate a study to understand the challenges of adjudicating election matters and to advise me on the steps that the executive can take to address those challenges.
“We are committed to strengthening our democracy by honouring the dictates of the separation of powers among the three arms of government. In this regard, Section 124 (3) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (4th Alteration), the Presidential Implementation Committee on Autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary, which I inaugurated last year, has forwarded recommendations that will genuinely empower the legislature and the judiciary to carry out their respective constitutional roles without interference from the executive.”