L-R: President, Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, and the Administrator, National Judicial Institute, Justice Rosaline Bozimo during the All Nigeria Judges of the Lower Courts Conference held at the Andrews Otutu Obaseki Auditorium, National Judicial Institute, Abuja on November 21, 2016
The Administrator of the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Justice Rosaline Bozimo, on Monday in Abuja told judges serving in different parts of country that the surest way to engender justice and peace in the country is by using their courts to uphold the rule of substantive justice in settling disputes that come before them.
Bozimo spoke on Monday while delivering her welcome address at the opening ceremony of the biennial All Nigeria Judges Conference of the Lower Courts which held at the Andrews Otutu Obaseki Auditorium of the National Judicial Institute.
She said apart from the fact that judicial history had shown that substantial justice is the way to go because it delivers real justice to the people, the society which the judiciary serves itself celebrates substantial justice over and above technical justice.
She counselled participants at the conference to try as much as possible to eschew the use of technical justice in settling disputes in their courts, saying it provokes conflict and sometimes violence in the polity.
Justice Bozimo consequently said that the theme for the 2016 conference was titled: “The lower courts as veritable instruments for justice and peace in a democratic society” was deliberately tailored towards enlightening and promoting efficient justice delivery in the country.
According to her, “In the 16 years of democratic rule in this our dear country, it can be said that the Nigerian judiciary has witnessed both its low and high moments but in all, the judiciary has always come out stronger.
“The developments in the judiciary have shown that it would rather uphold the rule of substantial justice rather than technicalities of law.
“It is important to note that upholding of the rule of substantial justice is actually recourse to peace and the decisions of courts when based on substantial justice rather than technicalities of law rarely provoke conflict or violence and is mostly celebrated by the society.
“By doing so, the democratic tenets that will ensure sustainable democracy are upheld for a better tomorrow,” she said, adding that the judges of the lower courts are very strategic in maintaining justice and peace in any democratic society because, according to her, a vast majority of cases sprout from their courts and are concluded there, thereby making them a significant arbiters in a democratic society.
Justice Bozimo who reminded the judges of the importance of the on-going conference said they must take advantage of it to improve their competence.
Specifically, she said the Conference of All Nigeria Judges of Lower Courts is a biennial meeting organised by the National Judicial Institute pursuant to its mandate of continuing education for all categories of judicial officers and their support staff.
She said the conference is an avenue for updating their skills and knowledge to further improve their competence and performance expected of them in the discharge of their statutory functions
“It also has the refreshing effect of exposing you to recent developments in law, practice and procedure in courts as well as contemporary legal issues
“It is a good opportunity for participants to evaluate common challenges in justice administration and generate ideas on ways to ameliorate these challenges,” she added.
The participants, no doubt, took the counsel of Bozimo with seriousness as they bombarded the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen with questions after the first paper was presented, on Monday.
Justice Onnoghen who was attending the NJI conference for the firdt time in his capacity as the Chairman of its Governing Board presided over Monday’s session.
The judges participating in the conference, during question and answer, wanted to know a lot of things to improve their competence and help justice administration grow including how to deal with recalcitrant lawyers and litigants when they are in contempt of their courts either in the face (contempt in facie curiae) or outside the face of the court (contempt ex-facie curaie); what they should do when executive offer them gifts during festive periods and when litigants ask them to hands off their cases on likelihood of bias even when there are no good reasons for such requests.
Justice Onnoghen, a cerebral and experienced judicial officer answered all their questions on Monday to their admiration.
For instance, on the issue of contempt in facie curiae, Justice Onnoghen explained that all judicial officers have the inherent powers to punish people in contempt of their courts but that the power is advised to be used sparingly except when necessary.
However, in view of rampant indiscipline among lawyers and litigants presently bringing the judiciary into disrepute, the acting CJN said there might be the need to scapegoat some of the errant lawyers and litigants to bring sanity into the system.
From all indications, recalcitrant lawyers and litigants might have to be more careful henceforth in courts as the judges of the lower courts were advised to use their power of contempt when necessary to instill discipline and return the lost glory of the third arm of government.