An anti-corruption advocacy group, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has urged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to investigate allegations of breach of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers made against a Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice D.E. Osiagor.
CSNAC, a coalition of over 150 anti-corruption organizations, in a petition to the NJC, signed by its Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, accused Justice Osiagor of abusing his power in a winding up suit with Suit No. FHC/UM/PET/02/2018 filed before him.
The group specifically insisted that the investigation is necessary to maintain transparency and accountability in the judiciary.
CSNAC further states in the petition, “We write this letter in response to allegations of Mr. Chima Nsudum who is resident in Lagos and who also happens to be a petitioner in winding up suit with Suit No. FHC/UM/PET 02/2018 before the above-named Justice and forwarded the verifying affidavit of Mr. Chima Nsudum housing the numerous allegations against the Justice to our organisation.
“We have distilled the following allegations against the above-named judge who is accused of compromising the referenced suit as follows;
Deliberately and intentionally hampering the process of justice, standing as a clog in the wheel of justice and fair hearing.
“Openly pledging allegiance, showing bias and favoritism to a party instead of being a neutral party. Breaching the confidentiality rule by discussing the case outside the court premises.
“Ex parte communications with persons about a case in his docket by attending to one party in chambers as against both parties on the subject matter of the suit.
“The suit before the Judge bothers on winding of a company which had risen to the Court of Appeal; however, it is alleged that the actions of the Justice in the attached document is serving as an impediment to the course of justice.
Rules 3.3 of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers in Nigeria states that: “A Judicial Officer should accord to every person who is legally interested in a proceeding, or his legal representative full right to be heard according to law, and except as authorized by law, neither initiate, encourage, nor consider ex parte or other communications concerning a pending or impending proceeding.
“For the purpose of this sub-rule an “ex parte communication” is any communication involving less than all the parties who have a legal interest in the case, whether oral or written, about a pending or impending case, made to or initiated or entertained by the Judicial Officer presiding over the case.
“Also, Rule 4.1 & 4.2 states that “A Judicial Officer should abstain from comments about a pending or impending proceeding in any Court in this country, and should require similar abstention on the part of the Court personnel under his direction and control, provided that this provision does not prohibit a Judicial Officer from making statements in the course of his official duties or from explaining for public or private information, the procedure of the Court so long as such statements are not prejudicial to his integrity of the Judiciary and the administration of justice.
“A Judicial Officer shall be bound by professional secrecy with regard to his deliberations and to confidential information acquired in the course of his duties.
“Accordingly, confidential information acquired in the Judge’s judicial capacity shall not be used or disclosed by the Judge for any other purpose not related to the Judge’s judicial duties.
“The Second Preamble to Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers in Nigeria states “that it is the duty of every Judicial Officer to actively participate in establishing, maintaining, enforcing, and himself observing a high standard of conduct that will ensure and preserve transparently, the integrity and respect for the independence of the Judiciary.
“This seems like a clear case of the courts of law aiding in delaying the course of justice. Ironically, this ought to be the other way around.
“However, the judiciary is to apply every and any means to accomplish justice, more so the case in question involves the primus of the judiciary who ought to be an embodiment of integrity.
“The judiciary is to interpret the law and in so doing is to act judiciously weighing cases before it and seeing to justice being served cautiously.
“The above allegations show how corruption has slowly crept into the justice sector which ought to be hope of the common man,” the group maintained.