In order to curb the menace of bribery and corruption, the NJC has barred judges and court officials in Nigeria from accepting gifts with hard punishment.
The National Judicial Council has henceforth barred Judges and other court officials from accepting gifts from other arms of government. It also outlawed lobbying of other arms of government by the Judiciary or any of its institutions. The NJC also further outlined new measures to curb corruption and other unethical conduct among judicial officers and other court staff.
According to The Nation, these are part of the provisions in a new “National Judicial Policy (NJP)” to be launched in Abuja today by the NJC.
The policy seeks to merge and improve on the existing NJC National Judicial Policy and a similar policy by the National Judicial Institute (NJI).
The existing Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers provides that “a judge and members of his/her family shall neither ask for nor accept any gift, bequest, favour, or loan on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties.”
But, the provision in the new policy particularly bars judges and other court staff from accepting gifts from other arms of government. Compliance is mandatory.
Section 2(3)(2) of the new policy states: ”The Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers and Code of Conduct for Court Employees, with the amendment discouraging acceptance of gifts from other arms of government, should be such as would be adequate. Compliance with their provisions shall be mandatory.”
Further on its relationship with other arms of government, it is prescribed that “the Judiciary shall not resort to lobbying in ensuring that the Legislature and the Executive perform their constitutional responsibilities”.
“All arms of government should respect the doctrine of separation of powers as enshrined in the Constitution.”
The policy has also introduced measures to further keep complaints against judges and other court staff from the media and public domain. Provisions in this regard are contained in Section 2(2)(4) to 2(2)(9).
“It shall be the policy of the Judiciary on complaints of misconduct against judicial officers or employees of the Judiciary shall not be leaked or published in the media.
“Where complaints on allegations against Judicial Officers and Court employees are submitted for investigation, the complainant or complainants shall be made to give an undertaking not to do anything to prejudice investigation or actions that may be taken.
“The Institutions of the Judiciary concerned with investigation or and implementation of decisions taken on such complaints shall be obliged to cease further action where such complaints are leaked or discussed in the media.
“Where such a leakage is occasioned after the submission of a complaint then all investigations on the complaints shall be suspended, the leakage investigated and if such leakage is from the complainant or through other parties known to such a complainant, such a complaint should be discarded.
“Where such leakage is occasioned prior to the presentation of the complaint and the source of the leakage is found to be the complainant or through other parties known to and connected with the complainant then such complaint shall not be accepted, upon submission, by the appropriate disciplinary body.
“Upon the conclusion of any investigation, the judicial disciplinary bodies may allow public disclosure of their findings, subject to following the proper channels for such disclosure.”
The NJC explained that the new policy was intended to enhance the performance of the Judiciary in the face of mounting public complaint and dwindling public confidence on its ability to deliver justice.
“In recent times, there has been much concern by the public about the efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of the judicial system.In particular, there has been waning confidence in the performance of the superior courts in regard to justice delivery.
“Such concerns make it imperative to identify issues and problems militating against a credible justice delivery system that would command the confidence of the citizen.
“The need to put in place a judicial policy is borne out of the realisation that the most efficient and realistic way to deal with the identified issues and problems is by way of a judicial policy that would guide and provide principles and guidelines for tackling, and dealing with the issues and providing actions for objective and durable solutions to the problems.
“In the final analysis, the objective of the National Judicial Policy is to promote and ensure the highest possible standard of qualitative justice delivery,” it said.