ABUJA, NOVEMBER 16, 2016 – Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday said it was fundamental for the judiciary to fight corruption in order to protect its independence.
He said this at the 2016 Fellows Lecture and Conferment of Honourary Fellowship on him and three others by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), in Abuja.
According to him, the most potent threat against judicial independence is corruption.
Osinbajo wondered how a compromised judge could be fair and just if a litigant could buy justice.
“But, (and this is fundamental), it is to protect judicial independence that we must fight corruption’’, he said.
Osinbajo noted that judicial independence was spoken of sometimes as though it was a favour being done to the judiciary saying “no, it is not. It is not a favour or a privilege to them.
“It is the essence of our system of justice. A judge must be independent for at least one reason: so that he or she can be fair and just, without fear or favour.
“This is why the executive must neither interfere in judicial process nor attempt to compromise judicial independence in any way.’’
The Vice President said those in the legal profession owed themselves a duty to preserve the administration of justice system.
“Not only because it is the last hope of the common man but because this is our means of livelihood.
“Our profession and the credibility of the administration of justice system depend entirely on public confidence.
“Once that is eroded because of the delinquency of a few, we, the majority must fight hard against it’’, he added.
The Vice President remarked that Nigeria’s formal legal tradition is over 100 years old, adding that the tradition had three established components: the Bar, Bench and Academia.
He said each branch had distinguished itself through the years and had attained world class status.
“In all the serious researches on the best known administration of justice systems, it is evident that at various points in their histories, the institutions were challenged by falling standards, corruption, and abuse of office.
“When this occurred, the profession itself had often made the first and farthest drastic moves to self-correct.’’
He, however, observed that one of the great difficulties of the legal profession in Nigeria was the shyness and reluctance of the practitioners to call themselves to order.
“Nobody wants to be held responsible for possibly ending the career of another.
“So, we watch the decay and gradual collapse of an excellent tradition built on the self-restraint, sacrifices and integrity of many in the past 100years.’’
Osinbajo warned that such posture should stop to save the profession and the nation.
He commended the NIALS for its commitment to the highest academic traditions and for the awards.
“As fellows, we pledge our commitment to the Institute’s mission of being the nucleus and hub of legal research and advanced studies in law in Nigeria.’’
A delegation of Niger Delta Peoples Congress led by the Amanyanabo of Twon Brass, King Alfred Diete-Spiff later visited Osinbajo to address the lingering security and development issues in the region.
Chief Mike Loigho, a delegate, told newsmen the visit was to reaffirm the commitment of the congress towards ensuring security in the region and support the initiatives of the Buhari administration in that direction.
He said, however, that there was the need to carry all the Niger Delta stakeholders in the peace initiatives of the government.
“We don’t have any political affiliation to any group but we have come genuinely concerned to solve this problem once and for all’’, he said.
According to him, the group has seen in Buhari a President that is very honest with governance and issues that affect Nigeria who wants a roadmap for the resolution of the conflicts in the region.