Nigeria’s Survival Depends On Strong Judiciary, Media, Says Judge, SANs

Nigeria’s democracy depends on, among others, a strong judiciary, media and security agencies, judicial and media experts said today.

They tasked President Bola Tinubu to make strong, well funded institutions rather than strong men, a hallmark of his administration.

These were the advise of Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo (Retd), Mr. Adetunji Oyeyipo (SAN) Mr. Abiodun Olatunji (SAN) and a former Editor of The Nation newspaper, Mr. Lekan Otunfodunrin, who spoke at the 2023 Annual Lecture of the National Association of Judicial Correspondents (NAJUC) held at the Muson Centre, Lagos.

The event, themed “Birthing a new Nigeria: Role of the Judiciary, Security Agencies and the Media in a Democratic Society”.

Guest speaker Olatunji (SAN) who delivered a paper on the theme, emphasized the importance of the Judiciary in a democracy.

He identified several fundamental issues the government must resolve for the judiciary to become strong and independent.

These included merit-based appointment of justices/judges, security of justices/judges’ tenures, establishment/strengthening of state judicial councils, improved welfare of Judicial officers, sustenance of Judicial financial autonomy, while intimidation if judges must end.

The guest speaker also lamented the level of the judges’ salaries which have not been reviewed in 15 years.

Justice Taiwo agreed, noting that poor remuneration for retired justices is a problem, particular for Federal judges.

He revealed that his total pension as a retired justice is below N500,000, an amount inadequate to meet his needs in the current poor economy.

He said: “Federal judges are badly treated after retirement, compared to state judges. Lagos State has tried for retired judges. Lagos gives retired judges allowances for life, buys them cars, sends them gifts as if they’re in service.

“My take home every month is less than N500, 000.”

The judge further noted that there is a symbiotic relationship between the judiciary and the press with regard to information. 

“One makes sure that the constitutional provision for freedom of information is enforced, the other disseminates the information as the case may be,” he said.

He emphasized the importance of the press in everyday life.

Justice Taiwo said: “We owe a lot to journalists because the government at times have to read (the papers) and come to terms with what the people are really thinking and they can’t get the people’s feelings unless they read the papers and listen to the news. It is from there they’ll gage the tempo. 

“Unfortunately, in most cases some governments don’t care. Whether the tempo is high or whether the country is in flames, they don’t care; they do what they want. History will judge everyone, including the governed and the government.”

Mr. Oyeyipo also made a case for strengthening the Judiciary, noting that it was critical to a constitutional democracy.

“There can’t be a democracy without the judiciary,” he said.

Mr. Otunfodunrin harped on the need for the Executive to understand the need for separation of powers, saying it is a key distinguishing factor between a democracy and a military regime.

Earlier, NAJUC Chairman Peter Fowoyo emphasized the importance of key sectors to fulfill their constitutional roles in the country’s interest.

Fowoyo tasked the judiciary and security agencies on the name to step up their game.

He said: “To birth a new Nigeria therefore, the judiciary, the security agencies and indeed the media must not only identify their roles and play it accordingly, they must also work together for the betterment of all Nigerians. 

“We thank the judiciary for the support given to us and the work they render to the society. We believe that the third arm of government can do better in the dispensation of justice.

“To our security agencies, we wish to thank you all, not just for coming here today but, also for your commitment to ensure that our society is safe to live in. We dare say, that you can do better if you work together as friends, not as foes. 

“The President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has reiterated that you must share intelligence gathering and work together as a team. This cannot be overemphasized.”

The event also feature the installation of Mr. Olatunji as a patron of NAJUC and Chief Felix Fagbohungbe SAN as garnd patron by Justice Taiwo.

Some of NAJUC members; Joshua Morakinyo, Innocent Anaba, Wale Igbintade, Akeem Ishola and Ranti Thomas were also conferred with honourary awards for their contributions to the association.