The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Dahiru Musdapher has called for a new judicial code of ethics that would reflect current realities and challenges to tackle judicial corruption in the country, in order to ensure that “judges and the judicial system remain politically neutral and rise up to safeguard our fledging democracy,” and to “immunize the entire judicial system against all identified iniquities.”
According to him, “Metaphorically a corrupt judge has been described as more harmful to the society than a man who runs amok with a dagger in a crowded street. The latter as you know can be restrained physically. But the former deliberately destroys the moral foundation of society and causes incalculable distress to individuals while still answering ‘honourable’.
Justice Musdapher said this today at the media roundtable on promoting ethics and integrity at the magistrate courts held at the Ikeja Airport Hotel, and organized by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Embassy.
Justice Musdapher represented by the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria Mr Sunday Olorundahunsi presented a keynote address titled: Promoting Magistrate Court Ethics, Integrity and Improving Citizens’ Access to Justice.
According to him, “Reducing corruption in the justice sector would make it more likely that corrupt individuals in other sectors would be prosecuted and punished. This would raise the cost of corruption and discount the rewards derivable there from. Thus, taking steps against corruption in the justice system should be a first step in dealing with corruption in society as a whole.”
According to Justice Musdapher, “As it stands today, it appears that the society we serve is not entirely satisfied with our performance. Hard as it may be to accept, we feel it is less important to focus on whether this assessment is fair or not. The important thing is for us to transparently come to terms with the prevailing realities, accept the gap in expectations and do our utmost to bridge it.”
“Therefore, restoring public confidence in the judicial system is our number one priority. We have therefore taken a number of initiatives to make this a reality. We established a Judicial Reform Committee, headed by former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais to explore how best to fortify the independence of the judiciary, curb judicial corruption and especially insulate judges from political manipulations and control. The committee has since submitted its report and has made very useful recommendations. The aim is to set out the Judiciary on a path of renewal so as to restore the integrity and dignity of the Judiciary,” Justice Musdapher also said.
According to him, “Corruption in the Justice sector is a keystone to corruption throughout society. Without an honest criminal justice system, the wealthy, especially the corrupt, can escape the consequences of their crimes. Such impunity reduces the perceived cost of corruption. The risk that corrupt activity will result in imprisonment and accompanying public humiliation is minimal. The gains from corruption are therefore not discounted and there is thus little reason beyond personal integrity not to engage in corrupt acts.”