Public opinion can never override constitutional provisions in justice delivery – CJN warns judges

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola has clarified that public opinion, no matter how serious or weighty it might be, cannot override or supersede the constitution of the country.

He has, therefore, charged Judges in the country to always apply constitutional provisions in deciding each case that may be assigned to them.

The CJN made the clarification on Wednesday at the Supreme Court in Abuja while inaugurating another batch of 23 Judges for the Federal High Court of Nigeria.

He said several vitriolic attacks are regularly heaped on the judiciary but that it is crystal clear that public opinion, no matter how serious, cannot override the Constitution.

The CJN explained that judicial officers still owe their conscience and the generality of the Nigerian masses, particularly those who are looking up to them, the great responsibility of good moral rectitude and acceptable conduct to uphold and consolidate the trust reposed in them.

He said “The newly appointed Judges of the Federal High Court have just taken the oath of office. This is a requirement prescribed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“By virtue of the oath you have just taken, you have, automatically, assumed new status and responsibilities in life. A new blank page in the book of life has just been opened for you; and as it is with public office, especially the Judiciary, you are completely opened to daily public scrutiny.

“The pen is right there in your hand to write whatever you desire to be the content of the new page that is now openly displayed in the public domain.

“Like I always say, even though judicial officers are not spirits or superhuman beings, so much impossible things are yet expected from them by the society.

“I heartily rejoice with you on this very important and sensitive appointment, but at the same time, I sincerely sympathize with you for the landmines that are already laying on your paths in the course of your adjudication, especially if your conscience is at variance with your conduct.

“The bench is neither for the indolent, the greedy nor those with dubious character, who can easily fall for a plate of porridge offered by desperate litigants.

“You must, at all times, rise above temptations and trials that might obstruct or even halt your rise to the pinnacle of your career. We are all humans, no doubt, but you display the humanism in you by doing those extraordinary things that people would ordinarily conclude that you cannot do.

“That is what separates those with integrity and passion for success from those with low pedigree and dysfunctional moral compass.

“My lords, for the umpteenth time, I wish to impress it on you, in very clear terms, the honest fact that the exercise that has just taken place, should not, by any vestige of imagination, be taken for granted or simply tagged as one of those usual ceremonies merely conducted to comply with established procedures and obligations in public office.

“You have just entered into a lifetime covenant with the Almighty God and the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Henceforth, whatever you do rightly will be counted, and accordingly, recorded in your favour.

“Similarly, whatever wrongdoing that emanates from any form of indiscretion and abuse of office, will, in like manner, be used to conscientize, chastise and thoroughly sanitize the same conscience that you may have refused to listen to.

“Appointment to the bench is not an appointment to wealth, vainglory, dishonest disposition or ostentatious lifestyle through corrupt acquaintances.

“The searchlight of the National Judicial Council beams brightly on all judicial officers across the country. The NJC should never, either by omission or commission, be mistaken for a toothless Bulldog.

“It can bark fiercely and bite deeply and aggressively, too. Our radar is sophisticated enough to detect every form of corruption and wrongdoing by Judicial officers, and we will not waste a moment in taking the necessary action to fish out the bad eggs.

“The remoteness of your location of adjudication can never blur our sight on you. We have put in place the right machinery to capture and document your conduct.

“So, be careful and take heed, or else, you may end up regretting ever being appointed a judicial officer. Though, we don’t wish you such, anyway!

“The entire letters and words of the oath you have just taken, must reside in a prime place of your heart and be generously applied in your adjudications.

“This is a bond that you should engrave in your heart and be well guided by it while adjudicating in all matters that come before you.

“You must be impartial, fair to all, and apply justice in all your undertakings. The times that we are in, are quite perilous, so we need judicial officers who are calculative, honest, objective and dispassionate in all ramifications.

“Thus, your appointments to the bench at this crucial period of our national history are not by accident but by divine ordination”, the CJN said.

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