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Judiciary must exercise true independence – Ozekhome



A Constitutional Lawyer and human right activist, Mike Ozekhome, SAN has called for  true independence of the Nigerian judiciary, saying that disobedience to court orders is commonplace, especially under the present President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime.

  He made the call recently while presenting a Keynote paper titled, “Protecting the Legal Profession from Extinction, Adulteration and Infiltration” at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Onitsha Branch Law Week and Bar Dinner which held at Sir. Louis Mbanefo Bar Center, High Court Complex, Onitsha.  

  The legal luminary lamented that the Judiciary which has the primary objective to ensure that the executive and legislative arms of government function within the ambit of constitutional provisions has been externally influenced in their decision making by those they should checkmate.

  “Today in Nigeria, the Judiciary is suffering from lack of true independence as envisaged by section 17 of the constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria, as amended. The Judiciary ought to stand isolated while performing her constitutional duty without interference from the other two arms of government. This is the kernel of the doctrine of separation of powers ably propounded in 1748 by Baron de Montesque, a great French Philosopher”, said Ozekhome.

  “In Nigeria today, that is a far cry from reality. The executive, legislature and even political parties influence decision making process in the judiciary, thus infiltrating the legal profession with inferiority complex”, he said.

Moreover, Ozekhome alleged that the esteem of the court in the eyes of the public has been lowered due to disobedience to court orders in the present administration.

  “Disobedience to Court Orders is commonplace, especially under the present Nigerian government. This breeds contempt of court. We have seen several instances where the executive blatantly disobeys court orders.

  “The case of Ibrahim Elzakzaky and his wife, Zenat among others is archety-pal of this government. These happen because judicial appointments come from the executive and must be sanctioned by the legislature. This impacts negatively on the Judiciary in one way or another, thus, fuelling sentimental judgments as well as emboldening public office holders to flout court orders”, said Ozekhome.

  Earlier in his welcome address, the Chairman, Bar week planning committee, Sir Ejike Ezenwa said that the legal profession had in recent times been faced with enormous challenges ranging from arrests of judicial officers and lawyers, issues of constraint and independence of the judiciary, airs of suspicion and distrust between the Bar and the Bench.

  “For the legal profession to survive what looks like a massive assault, every stakeholder should have interest in protecting the legal profession not just for the lawyers but for stability in the society and for rule of law to prevail, hence, the survival of Nigeria’s democracy, economy and society”, Ezenwa said.

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