J.S Okutepa Says, ” Giving Financial Autonomy To The Judiciary Is Not Enough To Guarantee Independence Of The Judiciary

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The Senior Advocate Of Nigeria, J.S Okutepa “SAN”  has said giving financial autonomy to the Judiciary is not enough to guarantee independence of the Judiciary.

J.S Okutepa  who mentioned elements such as: recruitment process, competence of those on the bench, integrity & character of those recruited and to be recruited as well as corruption and corrupt practices are all other factors militating against the independence of the Judiciary.

In his full epistle, J.S Okutepa has this to say:
“Yesterday ( 19th April, 2021) the Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum addressed the press that the governors have agreed to give effect to the autonomy of the judiciary in terms of financial independence.

That is how to be. I congratulate JUSUN and all relevant stake holders for this singular achievement. I hope it will be permanent and not adhoc.

We must see to practical realisations of the agreement in May 2021 and beyond.

Having said that I think merely giving financial autonomy to the judiciary is not enough to guarantee independence of the judiciary.

There are so many factors affecting the independence of our judiciary: The recruitment process is one, Integrity and character of those recruited and to be recruited are other thing.

The competence of those on the Bench and to be on the Bench is another thing.

Corruption and corrupt practices are also other factors militating against the independence of the judiciary.

Interfaces with judicial process by the powers that be is also another factor.

I therefore submit most strongly that once financial independence is secured for the judiciary, the next battle should be shifted to transparent recruitment process.

We must ensure that only the best and the best with integrity, character, mien, disposition and comportment get recruited to the Bench across board.

There must be independence of recruitment of judicial personnel and judicial officers.

The legal profession, the Body of Benchers, Body of Senior Advocate (BOSAN), NBA and JUSUN need to address the character and integrity of those who are on the Bench and those who are to join the Bench.

There is the need to review the recruitment process of judicial officers. We must avoid recruitment of indolent and non-productive legal practitioners as judicial officers.

It is not enough to just fulfill all righteousness by placing much emphasis on quota. Yes even if we need to follow Federal character and quota system, we must pick from the best eleven within that locality.

A situation when godfatherism, who you know, lobbying and such other vices played prominent role in the recruitment of judicial officers instead of merit must be fought and brought to an end.

There is no doubt that the jurisprudential quality of judgment in our courts with scintillating judicial prose seems to fast disappearing in our judgements.

The logicality of reasoning and indept analysis for which our judiciary was known in yester years seem to have gone for bad.

I therefore suggest that the Bar and Bench must come together to fashion out an enduring justice system that meets the yearning and aspirations of the legal profession and the Nigerian people.

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There must be a system that in the administration of autonomy of the finance of the judiciary no one will act to give appearance of impropriety of any kind. Nobody should be allowed to abuse the autonomy.

Honestly and integrity must be the watch word for those to administer the funds. We most be different.

Courts halls must be built and fully modernised. The filing processes must meet the emerging 21st century practices and world best standards.

The delay justice must be avoided. Judgments must have as its attributes the doing of justice to the parties. Our judicial officers must be ready to give justice to all. They must be bold and fearless.

The legal profession must liberate itself from self destruct it is heading to. We must avoid partisan discrimination and focus more on the purity of justice to all.

The way we act with impunity without sanctions must be revisited. In all we must follow the necessary and due process to make Nigerian judiciary truly independent”.

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