By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
Senate yesterday screened the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed for about two hours, during which he said the National and state Assemblies must grant financial autonomy to all levels of judiciary and strengthen weak legislations against corruption if judiciary must become corruption free.
This is just as the Senate yesterday confirmed the appointment of the Acting CJN to become the substantive head of the Nigerian judiciary.
According to the acting CJN who was screened for confirmation haven been nominated for the judiciary top job by President Muhammadu Buhari, corruption is part of Nigeria hence the need to find legislative means of addressing the menace.
He pointed out that the fact that some of the Nigerian judges are corrupt does not imply that such judicial officers should not be identified and punished as required by the laws.
The screening commenced with a closed door session shortly after the Senate Leader, Abdullahi Yahaya Abubakar (APC, Kebbi North), introduced the item as listed on the Senate Order Paper of yesterday.
However, after few hours in the closed session, the senate chamber was opened, as senators took turns to examine the Ag. CJN on how he intends to fight corruption in the judiciary, having succeeded a CJN who was controversially sacked for corrupt conduct.
Specifically, Tanko said “If there is no corruption nobody will be corrupt”, but emphasized that members of the bench and the bar who are found guilty of corruption should be made to face the law and the consequences of their corrupt actions.
He said as a measure to stem the tide of corruption in the Nigerian judiciary, the parliament both at federal and state levels should also make adequate provisions for the judiciary officers to limit the cases of corruption.
While he lamented that Nigeria can longer sleep with two eyes closed, Justice Tanko said the laws should be made stronger and others which need amendment should be addressed to ensure that the system is sanitized.
He admitted that lack of financial autonomy is a major factor setting the judiciary backward, lamenting that Nigerian judiciary is not asking for more other than what is provided in the budget.
He disclosed that monthly allowance of judges both, especially at states, are not released to some of them, calling on the legislature at the center and at the states to intervene to close all the ends that lead to corruption. “It is the legislature that can put things right and call a spade a spade. The legislature has every right and power to ensure that things are put right”, he added.
However, during the open session of the plenary, the senators asked the acting CJN what reforms he intends to bring into the judiciary and how he intends to champion reforms, as well as if increasing the number of justices in the Supreme Court will improve their efficiency.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in his remarks after the screening session, expressed shock that allowances of judiciary officers are not released to them at the right time, saying it must be first handled if Nigeria desires a corrupt free and robust judiciary.
Lawan therefore assured the Ag. CJN that the senate sill take up the matter of allowances of judiciary officers with him at a different forum, just as he promised that the senate will work with him seamlessly.