For members of the Justice Reform Project, JRP, a 20-man group of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, the hammer must fall on erring members of the bar and bench found engaged in corrupt practices.
The group has also argued that the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen’s resignation should offer no respite in view of “the grave nature of the allegations” against him. Rather it expects justice to run its course.
It urged the Federal Government to sanction other judges whose legitimate earnings do not justify their wealth, and argued that extending the anti-graft exercise to other judges will restore confidence in the judiciary and erase insinuations that the former CJN was being victimized.
The group, set up to push for reforms in the judiciary/legal profession is led by elderly SAN, Mr. Ebun Sofunde, has Jibrin Okutepa, Dr Babatunde Ajibade, Professor Ernest Ojukwu, Osaro Eghobamien, Mrs. Funke Adekoya, Kayode Sofola as members.
JRP urged the federal government to look beyond Onnoghen for three reason main reasons.
It said: “Beyond Honourable Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, however, JRP believes that revelations that have been made in the course of this affair necessitate that urgent steps be taken to identify and sanction all other judicial officers who are found to possess inexplicable wealth that cannot be reconciled with their legitimate income or their asset declarations, two of the allegations made against Justice Onnoghen.
“These steps are necessary for a variety of reasons. First, to restore public confidence in the judiciary and disabuse the notion that all judicial officers in Nigeria are corrupt and that justice is for sale.
“Second, to disabuse the notion that Onnoghen’s travails are a mere witch-hunt motivated by ethnic and political interests rather than the result of a genuine concern for sanitising and reforming the judiciary.
“Third, to eliminate the suspicion that the executive is using the information it has access to by virtue of its control over the apparatus of the state to take selective action only against those judicial officers that fail to do its bidding.”
Besides, the group said Onnoghen’s response to allegations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, before the National Judicial Council raises significant questions about how heads of courts manage judiciary’s funds.
“Without prejudice to the legitimate clamour for increased budgetary allocation to the judiciary, its financial independence and improvement in the working conditions of service of judicial officers, all of which JRP wholeheartedly supports, there must be better management of that which is currently allocated.
“The legal profession is a self-regulating one, so it behooves all its members to take an active interest in maintaining the standards of rectitude and integrity expected of judicial officers and legal practitioners.
“If the profession does not regulate itself effectively, incidents such as those involving Justice Onnoghen will remain a fixture in our judicial system,” said the group.