Olukayode Ariwoola, chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), has stated that public opinion “no matter how serious or weighty it may be”, cannot override the superiority of Nigeria’s constitution.
Addressing 22 newly sworn-in judges of the federal high court on Wednesday, October 4, the CJN said the constitution must be considered first and foremost when deciding each case brought before them.
“Several vitriolic attacks are regularly heaped on the judiciary; it is, however, crystal clear that public opinion, no matter how serious or weighty it might be, cannot override or supersede the Constitution of the country which we apply in deciding each case,” the CJN said.
“Nevertheless, your Lordships still owe your conscience and the generality of the Nigerian masses, particularly those who are looking up to you, the great responsibility of good moral rectitude and acceptable conduct to uphold and consolidate the trust reposed in you.
“Like it is often said, a clear conscience fears no accusation. He who comes to equity, as we all say, must come with clean hands.
“So, your Lordships must severe ties with anything that will smear your hands and bring you into disrepute in the course of your new assignment.
“Like I always say, even though judicial officers are not spirits or superhuman beings, so much impossible things are yet expected from them by society.
Ariwoola added that the “bench is neither for the indolent, the greedy nor those with dubious character, who can easily fall for a plate of porridge offered by desperate litigants”.
“You must, at all times, rise above temptations and trials that might obstruct or even halt your rise to the pinnacle of your career,” he said.
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“We are all humans, no doubt, but you display the humanism in you by doing those extraordinary things that people would ordinarily conclude that you cannot do.
“That is what separates those with integrity and passion for success from those with low pedigree and dysfunctional moral compass.”
The CJN noted that the National Judicial Council (NJC) is fully active to deal with judicial officers who mess up.
“The searchlight of the National Judicial Council beams brightly on all judicial officers across the country,” he said.
“The NJC should never, either by omission or commission, be mistaken for a toothless bulldog. It can bark fiercely and as well bite deeply and aggressively too.
“Our radar is sophisticated enough to detect every form of corruption and wrongdoing by Judicial officers, and we will not waste a moment in taking the necessary action to fish out the bad eggs.
“The remoteness of your location of adjudication can never blur our sight on you. We have put in place the right machinery to capture and document your conduct.
“So, be careful and take heed, or else, you may end up regretting ever being appointed a judicial officer. Though, we don’t wish you such, anyway!”