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NJC Tightens Regulations, Bars Judges, Court Staff From Accepting Gifts

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Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council, NJC
Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council, NJC

Following recent developments in the Judiciary with regards to allegations of corruption among top judicial officers, the National Judicial Council, NJC, has announced a new set of regulations, barring judges and other court staff from accepting any form of gift from the other arms of government.

The new rule is part of measures to ensure and enhance the independence of the judiciary, and curb corruption and other unethical conduct among judicial officers and other court staff.

A new National Judicial Policy, NJP, wherein contain the latest rules guiding the nation’s judiciary will be launched by the NJC on Monday in Abuja.

Already, the existing Code of Conduct for judicial officers provides that “a judge and members of his/her family shall neither ask for nor accept any gift, bequest, favour, or loan on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties.

But the provision in the new policy particularly bars judges and other court staff from accepting gifts from other arms of government, and also made compliance mandatory.

Section 2(3)(2) of the new policy states: “The Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers and Code of Conduct for Court Employees, with the amendment discouraging acceptance of gifts from other arms of government, should be such as would be adequate. Compliance with their provisions shall be mandatory.”

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With regards to the Judiciary’s relationship with other arms of government, the new policy stipulates that “the judiciary shall not resort to lobbying in ensuring that the legislature and the executive perform their constitutional responsibilities.

“All arms of government should respect the doctrine of Separation of Powers as enshrined in the Constitution,” it added.

The policy also introduced measures to further keep complaints against judges and other court staff from the media and public domain.

Part of the policy read: “It shall be the policy of the judiciary on complaints of misconduct against judicial officers or employees of the judiciary shall not be leaked or published in the media.

“Where complaints on allegations against judicial officers and court employees are submitted for investigation, the complainant or complainants shall be made to give an undertaking not to do anything to prejudice investigation or actions that may be taken.

“The institutions of the judiciary concerned with investigation or/and implementation of decisions taken on such complaints shall be obliged to cease further action where such complaints are leaked or discussed in the media.

“Where such a leakage is occasioned after the submission of a complaint, then all investigations on the complaints shall be suspended, the leakage investigated and if such leakage is from the complainant or through other parties known to such a complainant, such a complaint should be discarded.

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“Where such leakage is occasioned prior to the presentation of the complaint and the source of the leakage is found to be the complainant or through other parties known to and connected with the complainant, then such complaint shall not be accepted, upon submission, by the appropriate disciplinary body.

“On conclusion of investigation, the disciplinary bodies may allow public disclosure of their findings, subject to following the proper channels.”

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