Nigeria’s Chief Justice, Walter Onnoghen, was a guest at the presidential villa on Tuesday where he met with President Muhammadu Buhari. Afterwards, he spoke to State House correspondents on a few issues.
Below are the main takeaways from his interaction:
1. On the purpose of his visit:
“I am here to felicitate with Mr. President. As you are aware, he has just returned from the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at the head of federal government delegation and there is also the need for regular interaction to keep him abreast of latest development in the Judiciary.”
2. On the allegation that the judiciary is not doing enough to ensure speedy resolution of cases:
“There has never been situation in which any case was taken to court and decided upon and the judge was not there to listen to the case, or having finished hearing, he refused to deliver judgement.
“So, when cases are not tried expeditiously and the judge is there, ready to listen to the case, you come and for one reason or the other, you take a date to adjourn the case, and the courts grants the adjournment, which is normal during proceedings, you cannot turn round and blame the Judge for that. These are the basic things that everybody must know. We must all work together, cooperate for the system to move forward.
“But if you keep thinking that the Judiciary is the culprit in this delay process, you are not telling the whole story. It is not the judiciary that would go and arrest someone before looking for evidence, it is not the judiciary that would go into investigations. No, we do not operate the Inquisitional mode of justice as it is practiced by the French. Our own is that an independent body must investigate, prosecute while the judge decides.”
3. On the performance of judges:”l must admit that so far, so good. It is in order to enable you know the workings of the system that l set up the COMPRECO (Commission for the Prevention of Corruption) committee. All along, everybody is passing buck, the prosecution will say it is not our responsibility, we are not the cause of the delay, the investigator will say l am not the cause, the judge will say, l am not the cause. So, the people must know who is the cause of the delay, that us why l set up that committee. And it is made up of both the defense counsel, the prosecutor and the Judiciary under the NJC.”
4. On whether the judiciary and executive are on the same page as regards the anti-corruption war:
“I have answered that before and l still say the same thing. We are on the same page with the Executive. There are three arms of government and these three arms constitute the government. The government is not only the Executive.”
5. On the constitution of the special courts to try corruption cases:
“It is the Executive in conjunction with the Legislature that has the prerogatives of setting up courts, including the Special Courts, under our Constitution and not the Judiciary. Once the Executive set up such courts, the Judiciary will run it by providing the manpower.”