Law News
CJN warns magistrates against politicians, corruption

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, has warned magistrates in the country against corruption and undue closeness to politicians, who could turn them to a tool for settling political scores.

Media aide to the CJN, Mr. Ahuraka Isah, quoted the CJN in a statement on Sunday as giving the warning when members of the National Executive Committee of the Magistrates Association of Nigeria visited.

The delegation was led by the acting national president of the association, Victoria Isiguzo, a Chief Magistrate.

There were 15 other Justices of the Supreme Court, who received the magistrates along with the CJN.

Justice Mohammed was said to have asked the magistrates to avoid being used by politicians to intimidate opponents during this year’s elections.

“I must urge you to shun corruption and unnecessary affiliations with the political class or politically exposed persons who may not hesitate to turn you into instrument of intimidation or use you to remove his or her rivals from the circulation during this year’s election cycle,” the CJN said.

Justice Mohammed however lamented the woes of magistrates in the country, saying the problems of the magistrates arose from lack of constitutional recognition as judicia officers.

He said that a constitution amendment proposal aimed at formally recognising magistrates as judicial officers would be sent to the National Assembly to confer due recognition on magistrates.

The CJN said, “Magistrates perform judicial functions and they are bound by the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, but Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) does not recognise them as judicial officers.

“Consequently, we are including proposals to the National Assembly that the magistrates be formally considered as judicial officers as defined under Section 318 of the Constitution, given the undeniable relevance of our magistracy to justice dispensation in the country.”

He also called on magistrates to stop imposing stringent bail conditions far beyond the capabilities of suspects.

He said imposition of stringent bail conditions on suspects had made some suspects to continue to languish in prisons.

“A corollary to this is the imposition of such bail terms which an accused has no real hope of meeting. I wish to use this medium to counsel magistrates to judiciously and carefully exercise their discretion to remand and consider alternatives to detention where possible, and to set reasonable bail terms as appropriate,” he counselled.

In a related development, the CJN, while hosting the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, Mr. Ekpo Nta, and other top officials of the commission, expressed the commitment of the judiciary to speedy dispensation of justice.

He said it was such commitment that led to the introduction of Practice Directions in 2013 to fast-track major criminal and corruption cases in addition to dedicating some judges and courts to determine such cases.

He advised the ICPC to strengthen its investigation and prosecution units to enhance speedy trial of the commission’s cases.

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