The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olukayode Ariwoola, during the Supreme Court’s legal year and inauguration of SANs ceremony on Monday, gave his final legal year speech ahead of his retirement.
He spoke on law, justice and the role of Senior Advocates Of Nigeria (SAN) in Nigeria’s development during the 2023 legal year celebration held in Abuja on Monday.
Ariwoola noted the ceremony, including the swearing in of 58 SANs, is the last legal year he will be presiding over before retiring.
He admonished brother justices and judges across the nation not to be moved by public opinion but that they should make decisions based on the law.
The CJN also said the judges owe the society a great duty of always deciding cases without fear or favour, affection or ill will and friend or foe.
He maintained that the law remains the law, no matter whose interest is involved and that judges should endeavour to separate emotion from logic and assumption from fact while deciding on cases.
“For the umpteenth time, I wish to honestly assure all judicial officers that if you are discharging your functions as an upright judicial officer by genuinely following the norms, then you have no cause to be afraid or feel intimidated by the often frivolous complaints or vitriolic attacks made by persons having vested interest.
“However, I expect every judicial officer to work very hard and also be very honest and courteous to the litigants, witnesses and members of the Bar, and discharge all your judicial functions with all humility at your command.
“Even while doing this, it is still necessary to have at the back of your minds that public opinions, sentiments or emotions can never take the place of the law in deciding the cases that come before you,” Olukayode charged the judges present.
He explained that judges should never be “overwhelmed by the actions or loud voices of the mob or crowd” and now begin to confuse law with sentiment.
He applauded the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) inaugurated in 2018 by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice W.S.A Onnoghen, for helping in fast-tracking the trial of corruption and financial related crimes in the country.
“The Committee, which is headed by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Hon. Justice Suleiman Galadima, CFR, has been working assiduously with various heads of Courts, to ensure that there is a remarkable rise in the dispensation of corruption and financial crime cases in the country.
“With the impressive effort they put in during the last legal year, some commendable results were achieved in the disposal of cases.
“This achievement was brought about as a result of increased and continued vigilance of the Committee. The two leading anti-graft agencies in the country have also been trying to amplify the war against corruption.
“The ICPC was able to successfully secure a total number of 10 convictions while the sister agency, EFCC was able to secure 1,094 convictions within the same period under review,” he added.
On the part of the Supreme Court, the CJN revealed it presided over 1,271, comprising of motions and appeals, from the 12th day of September, 2022 to the 11th day of July, 2023,
“Out of these, we heard 388 political appeals, 215 criminal appeals, and 464 civil appeals.
“Similarly, the court considered a total number of 49 criminal motions, 153 civil motions, and 2 political motions.
“Between the 30th day of September, 2022 and the 11th day of July, 2023, the Supreme Court delivered a total number of 251 judgments.
“Out of these, 125 were political appeals, 81 were civil appeals and 45 were criminal appeals.
“Within the period under review (precisely 10 months’ duration), a total number of 91 Rulings were delivered by the Honourable Court,” the CJN added.
To the new SANs, the CJN told them that following their inauguration, they have automatically become members of the Inner Bar and Apostles of the Temple of Justice.
“As Senior Advocates of Nigeria, you now carry heavy burden on your shoulders. From the moment you leave this Courtroom, everything in you and about you will now be freely scrutinized and dissected by everyone that comes in contact with you.
“There is nothing like private life for you henceforth, as whatever you hitherto regarded as private life will now be treated as public life by members of the public; and there is nothing you can do about it,” the CJN charged them.