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Justice Maryam Aloma Mukhtar, The No-nonsense CJN Who Restored Confidence in Courts 

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Her Promise to the Nation

“I will try to make sure that the confidence reposed in the judiciary, as it were before, will be returned. I will try as much as possible to ensure that the bad eggs that are there are flushed out; that there will be a cleansing by the National Judicial Council based on petition.”

That was the promise Justice Aloma Mukhtar made before the Senate when she was screened for the top job in 2012.

Did She Deliver on that Promise?

In an article titled ‘Why I Salute Justice Aloma Mukhtar,’ Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) had praised the courage of the legal icon for the leadership she provided the National Judicial Council (NJC), that led to the prosecution of an effective war on judicial corruption.

Sanctioned Erring Judges

Under Justice Mukhtar’s watch the judicial council was repositioned as cases of judicial misconduct against some judges were looked into and the NJC recommended the compulsory retirement of Justice Charles Archibong of the Federal High Court and Justice Thomas Naron of the Plateau State High Court for judicial misconduct.

Justice Naron, who was Chairman of the dissolved Osun State Election Petitions Tribunal, was found to have regularly communicated with ex- Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola’s counsel, Chief Kunle Kalejaiye (SAN), through telephone and SMS messages, while the election petition filed by Mr. Rauf Aregbesola was on.

The NJC established that Archibong, dismissed the 26-count charge against the former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, without taking his plea, made unsavoury remarks about the competence of four Senior Advocates of Nigeria and refused to release a certified true copy of his ruling to the lawyers’ among other misconduct.

Other judges who were sanctioned by the NJC under Mukhtar’s tenure includes Justice Okechukwu Okeke of the Federal High Court, Mohammed Talba of the Federal Capital Territory High Court (received a 12-month suspension) and Chief Judge, Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Lawal Hassan Gumi, who hurriedly resigned before the commencement of investigation into the allegations of misconduct levelled against him.

The Judicial Reforms She Pursued

To prevent judges from embarking on foreign trips at the expense of their judicial duties, Justice Muktar had directed that no judge should travel out of the country any longer without a written permission of the CJN.  Judges were also not allowed to leave their stations without the authorisation of the appropriate heads of courts. The former CJN also made it mandatory for judges to deliver at least four judgments in a year to ensure cases are promptly tried while sitting of courts must commence at 9am as against the usual practice of judges arriving courts whenever they like.  In all the cases of Judicial corruption and misconduct brought before the NJC, Justice Mukhtar said that those who alleged corruption against the judicial officials must be ready to substantiate it.  As CJN, she took the bull by the horn and did not pretend that corruption was not in the Nigerian judiciary.

She once said: “What I intend to do to curb this (corruption) is to lead by example and to hope and pray that others will follow.“

And that was exactly what she did.

Femi Falana wrote about her:  “I make bold to say that Justice Muktar has never been associated with corrupt practices or any form of abuse of office”.

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