Justice Isa Ayo Salami, former president, Court of Appeal has emphasized that the root of the major problems bedeviling the country, especially the judiciary is that “Nigerians do not naturally want the truth to be told.” He said this while presenting his speech as the chairman at the 10th Chief Gani Fawehinmi annual lecture organized by the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja branch, Ikeja, Lagos.
Salami said it is a disturbing fact that in Nigeria, anyone who desires to stand on the path of truth and justice must be prepared to suffer persecution, incarceration and other inhuman treatments. “Perhaps this is part of our growing process; but how long will it take us to grow? Innumerable number of people have suffered and still continue to suffer in defence of truth and justice in Nigeria,” he said.
The retired judge also urged the serving judges and other legal practitioners to keep to their oath of doing justice without fear or favour, irrespective of whose ox is gored. “Those who aid and abet meting out of acts of cruelty to their fellow human beings, that is maligning, telling lies or subverting the course of justice for pecuniary and other worldly gains will one day stand before God, the ultimate judge. To give account of their stewardship,” he said.
While thanking members of the NBA, Ikeja and the media for their support during his travail, Salami told the audience that God helped him throughout his career to resist all temptations, or to be influenced by anybody in dispensing justice. “My conscience is intact and my relationship with my God, to whom I am accountable, is sacred and also intact.
To reposition the Nigerian legal and judicial systems, Salami believes that there is a need for immediate restructuring of the whole system. He suggested that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, should cease to be the chairman of the National Judicial Council, NJC, so that occupants of the office will stop taking undue advantage of the powers of the CJN as chairman of the Council as enshrined in the Constitution to abuse their office. Salami also recommended that each of the federating states should be allowed to have its own Court of Appeal and Supreme Court to better adjudge on the respective disputes and appeals on matters falling within their legislative competence. “There is no gainsaying the fact that judge from the core South may not know how better to resolve disputes of the man from the core North and vice-versa,” he said. For Salami the judiciary will be better of when members of the NJC no longer accept executive appointments, including briefs from the executive during their tenure and when justices appointed to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court on ground of Sharia or Customary Law are not longer permitted to participate in Common Law, as well as Constitutional Cases, because they are not versed in it.
Speaking on the topic of the lecture titled Nigeria At Centenary: A Nation Still In Bondage?, Tunde Bakare, a pastor and convener, Save Nigeria Group, lamented how much the past and present leaders have contributed to the bondage in which the country find itself today. He however advised that proposed national conference should be executed with all sense of sincerity and selflessness in line with the will of the people. “If we do not do the needful in 2014, there may by no 2015, but if we dedicate ourselves to restructuring our nation at this opportune time, the outcome will be the emergence of credible leadership that till ensure a Nigeria that works.