Nigeria: Conflicting Judgments – Judiciary Watchdog Faults NJC’s New Policy

The justice sector watchdog, Access to Justice, has faulted the recent policy direction issued by the National Judicial Council (NJC) on political and election-related cases.

A statement by its convener, Joseph Otteh, stated that the new guidelines fell short in articulating a better approach to dealing with abuses of adjudicational authority by erring judges.

The statement noted that, while the NJC’s guidelines were well-intended, they did not offer the best formula for dealing with the problems they address.

The group added that the guidelines concentrated too much power on chief judges that can be abused and used to violate constitutionally protected rights of fair hearing.

It added that the guidelines also fell short in articulating a better approach to dealing with abuses of adjudication authority by erring judges.

The National Judicial Council (NJC) issued new Policy Directions last week to remedy the multiplicity of litigations of political suits at different Courts of coordinate jurisdiction across the nation, resulting in conflicting orders on the same issues and facts,” said the statement. “Access to Justice regards the NJC’s intervention on the matter as a ‘one-step’ progress towards dealing with a longstanding problem but not the solution to the problem.”

The justice watchdog further explained that aspects of the directions “raise constitutional questions whether the NJC has not overreached its powers and encroached into the rule-making powers of individual courts, whether state or federal.”

It added that abuses of judicial power by judges “are evidence of a deeper distress within the Judiciary that implicate broader questions of competence and possibly corruption.”

“Yet, the NJC’s interventions mostly deal with the symptoms of the recurring abuses and not their underlying causes. The NJC must offer a more tailored and effective plan for ending judicial abuse of its powers. Overall, while the policy guidelines of the NJC are well intended, they do not offer the best formula for dealing with the problems they address,” explained the watchdog.

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