By Chidi Nkwopara
President of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, has raised the alarm over the number of citizens, who are languishing in correctional facilities across the nation, without trial.
Ugorji raised the alarm yesterday while preaching the homily, during a Eucharistic celebration at the Maria Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri, to mark the official opening of the New Legal Year of Imo State Judiciary.
His words: “”In our judicial system, we look forward to a day, when cases are despatched expeditiously when suspects are not detained indefinitely in prison without trial.
“It is unfortunate that our prisons are full of suspects, whose cases have never been brought before the court of law. Let it not be said that our country operates the Lydford Law, punishment first and trial later.”
Continuing, the CBCN President said: “To maintain a strong judicial system, the appointment of judges by the executive arm of government, based on the recommendation of the National or State Judicial Council and the ratification of the legislature, must always be seen to be based on the qualification, competence, integrity and ability of candidates.
“When in the appointment of judicial officers, these prerequisites are sacrificed on the altars of nepotism, religious or political affiliation, the entire judiciary suffers. It is a scourge for a nation or state to have unqualified, incompetent or corrupt judges.
“In every civilized society, the judiciary upholds and sustains the rule of law. It protects and promotes democracy, ensuring a good, transparent and accountable government.
“Likewise, the judiciary interprets the law and administers justice. It is the last hope of the common man in his quest for justice, equity and fairness.”
While admitting that there are “dazzling array of erudite, reputable, experienced and competent judges of unassailable integrity, who exercise their duties with extraordinary diligence, courage, impartiality and highest ethical standards”, Archbishop Ugorji however decried the presence of “cash and carry judges” in the system.
His words: “There are worrisome tales of cash and carry judges, who award cases to the highest bidder. By their inappropriate conduct, these bad eggs taint the image of the judiciary, shake the confidence of the common man in the noble institution and tempt the citizenry to engage in self-help to vindicate their rights and freedoms.
“The National Judicial Council, NJC, that has the responsibility of disciplining corrupt judges, should always be seen as rising to its duty of quality control. It should ensure that bad eggs have no place in the judiciary.”