There have been occasions where the executives especially some Governors of States of the Federation of Nigeria would directly donate and or offer incentives to judicial officers as incentives to them in a way. I, with due respect, contend and disapprove of this act of unnecessary generosity in the interest of justice, with due respect. I rather prefer that the National Judicial Council-herein after referred to as the NJC- should directly deal with any incentive to judicial officers, hence, this paper.
Judicial officers are clearly defined by section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)-herein after referred to as the Constitution. The roles of judges or judicial officers in justice dispensation cannot be overemphasized. Therefore, I fear that ‘he who pays the piper dictates the tunes’ as the adage is usually said. The executive or any other arm of government should not offer any grant or incentive to any judicial officer except the same is passed and or submitted generally to the NJC which in turn, distributes the same to the judicial officers on his record. Their incentive should be directly from the NJC and not be made a thanking-slave to those executives, with due respect.
Judicial officers are not subject to the executive rather to the NJC, so NJC must take full control of their welfare so that they do not get any familiarity with any of the other arms of government or any member of the public in such a way that ordinary citizen feels that they are easily influenced. Let us take hint and wisdom from the provision of section 162 of the Constitution which provides thus ‘(9) Any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Federation Account shall be paid directly to the National Judiciary Council for disbursement to the heads of courts established for the Federation and the States under section 6 of this Constitution.’, making it mandatory to pay such emoluments of judicial officers directly to the NJC for onward disbursement to the heads of courts established for the Federation and the States under section 6 of the Constitution. Here, I have observed two procedures have been laid down by the Constitution in this regard: 1. Such emolument shall be paid to NJC; 2. The NJC disburse the same to heads of courts who then disburse the same to their respective judicial officers. The question is why can this procedure not apply to the distribution of cars and other gifts by the executive arm or other arms of government to judicial officers?!
With due respect, we must all join hands together to champion the position that executive, should stop giving out gifts and other incentives whatsoever to any judicial officer henceforth, in the interest of justice, rather, same should be paid and or deposited and or handed over to the NJC directly and NJC would then know what and how to deal with the said gift in compliance with the procedures laid down by the Constitution in section 162 (supra). The NJC is therefore advised to send a notification to all States’ executive arms and the legislative arms to stop such direct handover of gifts to judicial officers as it is a usurpation of the functions of the NJC and an easy way to influence and or corrupt such judicial officers with due respect. The NJC is further advised to put in place punitive measures against any judicial officer who receives such a gift as a way of curbing any of these offers not coming directly through the NJC. It is my belief that where the judicial officer rejects such a gift and directs the offeror to direct his gift to the NJC, then, such will be corrected.
Finally, it is my belief that these recommendations would be considered and taken into adequate consideration. This does not mean that I am saying that the executive or the legislature has a bad mind in the offer of the gift rather it is in the interest of manifest justice and to avoid any slight opportunity to deviate from judicial roles by those judicial officers, with due respect. These recommendations will also afford the judicial independence of the judiciary.