NIGERIA: Senate Confirms Mohammed Mahmud As Next Chief Justice

The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed the appointment of Mohammed as the next Justice of Nigeria (NJC).

Mohammed will take over from Mukhtar whose tenure expires on November 20 following the attainment of the mandatory retirement age of 70.

The confirmation was sequel to a letter addressed to Senate President, David Mark, by Jonathan last week in which he urged the Senate to confirm the appointment of Mohammed in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

According to the president, Mohammed’s appointment was in compliance with Section 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which he said gave him the powers to appoint CJN acting on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC).

He therefore urged the Senate to treat the appointment with urgency.
Tuesday’s confirmation by the Senate followed a questions and answers session which lasted for about an hour during which the CJN-designate threw his weight behind the drive to separate the office of the General of the Federation (AGF) from that of the Ministry of Justice.

According to him, while the office of the AGF borders on administration of justice, office of the justice minister is mainly political and hence, each of them must be allowed to operate at its own pace.

He said: “Regarding the office of the AGF and Minister of Justice, whether it should be split or it should be allowed to remain as it is; honestly, I have my own view because I was also an attorney general. In fact, I served two opposing governments but what it requires is honesty in the discharge of responsibilities regarding the role and how the machinery of government is run.

“The function of the attorney general is not a political office but it is an office that deals with a lot of responsibilities regarding the administration of justice generally. Now, the office of the Minister of Justice is purely political. You see, sometimes, political decisions have to be taken. It may not necessarily be in accordance with the law.

That is what it is and we recognise that. To me, I think there is the need honestly, to separate the two offices so as to allow each to function in accordance with the dispensation of justice because to allow one person to exercise both powers will result in a lot of complaints, drawing various inferences which may not be the correct inferences. So, this is my stand on the separation of the two offices.”

He also threw more light on why conflicting judgments sometimes emanate from the courts especially at the Court of Appeal or election tribunals, explaining that political interests often come to play in that circumstance adding that the trend is also sometimes caused by errors from the judges.

He opposed the notion that special courts should be created for the trial of corruption cases, saying doing so will make little or no difference since the courts would still be operated by the people.

He also disagreed with the view that the CJN must not necessarily be the most senior person on the bench as it is the case in the States, arguing that seniority is part and parcel of the legal profession.

“In each court, seniority counts and that is what is peculiar to the legal profession and there is nothing wrong with that because we all struggle to be called to the bar first. Even though you are called on the same day, but the man called before you is your senior. That is what is good for the legal profession which is the only honourable profession in the world and that is why we are cherished,” he said.

Meanwhile the outgoing CJN, Justice Mukhtar, has said she is satisfied with the reforms she introduced in the judiciary during the past two and a half years she has been at the helms of affairs of the judiciary.

The CJN spoke while receiving an award for  outstanding leadership presented to her by the  Executive Committee of the Association of Judiciary Correspondents (NAJUC) in her office.

The Justice, who clocks 70 tomorrow, said she  felt fulfilled with the impact of reforms she carried out in the judiciary during her tenure in office.

She expressed pleasure that the reforms have in a way given a rebirth to the judiciary to serve the nation better in the dispensation of justice without fear or favour.

Justice Mukhtar noted that when the reforms were reeled out, some of her colleagues were not aware that her mission was to ensure that things were done properly in the best interest of the nation and judiciary as an institution.

She said: “It is a fact that many mis-understood what I stood for when we introduced the judiciary reforms but I thank God today that they are better informed and appreciative of the efforts.

“It was not easy at the beginning but because of the path I have taken, it has been easy with me internally. When you follow the straight path, you will not derail and I thank God we did not derail.”

During the implementation of the reforms, the CJN said she did not victimise or begrudge anybody but was up and doing in the task of improving on the system met on ground in the interest of judiciary as a very important institution.

The CJN showered encomiums on the media for doing marvelously well especially for being of great assistance to the judiciary in the propagation of its message of hope for the litigants and for the entire nation.

She expressed joy that she was leaving judiciary after 47 years of meritorious service in her career, adding that whatever has beginning must surely have an end.

Earlier, the leader of the delegation,  Mr. Tobi Soniyi of THISDAY Newspapers, had commended the efforts of the outgoing CJN in returning sanity to the nation’s judiciary.

He said though her tenure of office of the CJN was very short, it was however eventful with huge impact on both judiciary workers and litigants across the country.

“Indiscipline among judges was noticeable but through your leadership by example, those concerned got the message. It is a good thing that courts now begin to sit by 9:00a.m.

“You have a short tenure of office but the tenure brought a giant stride in the history of our judiciary and a cause for litigants to celebrate.”   

Soniyi noted the failed attempt to discredit the reforms agenda of the CJN but said the generality of Nigerians were behind her.

Source: This Day Live
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