The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court (FHC), Justice John Tsoho, has acknowledged the public’s scrutiny of the judiciary, particularly regarding recent election-related rulings.
“The judiciary is on trial,” Tsoho declared during a special session marking the court’s Golden Jubilee anniversary and the start of the new legal year. He urged judges to “uphold the independence and sacredness of the judiciary, which is the hallowed temple of justice.”
Tsoho highlighted the court’s significant growth since its inception in 1973, expanding from one court with five judges to 38 divisions with 95 judges. He commended the current judges and encouraged them to “dispense justice without fear or favour.”
He said, “It is pertinent to state that this court has faced difficulties and welcomed change during the previous 50 years, developing as a pillar of justice in our country.
“The court has had a significant influence on how the law is interpreted, how the legal system is shaped, and how justice is dispensed and perceived.
“On this note, I want to particularly appreciate the current 95 Hon. Judges of this court; I assure you that you are not here today by accident, but by divine orchestration.
“I want to encourage you to stand steadfast and continue to dispense justice, without fear or favour.
“My dear brothers, it is destiny that has made us brothers, and the actions we take today and, in the future, will determine the destiny of not only this court, but perhaps the destiny of this country.
“I therefore urge us that just like Caesar’s wife, we must strive to be beyond suspicion.
“We must dispense justice with integrity and without bias; we must display utmost competence and courage as well as dispose of cases speedily.
“As we commence this New Legal Year, our focus remains the same, which is to present a viable and accessible venue for the public to seek and get justice.”
The Chief Judge also revealed a backlog of 144,910 cases as of the end of the last legal year.
Meanwhile, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, lauded the court’s resilience despite the workload and assured judges of the government’s commitment to improving their welfare.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), represented by its national president, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, urged the judiciary to take decisive action against errant judges and lawyers. “It’s time to unsheath your coercive powers,” Maikyau said, emphasising the need to protect the integrity of the justice system.
Similarly, Dr. Alex Iziyon, representing the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), requested the court to expedite hearings on civil cases, citing the current focus on political matters as a concern.
The event was attended by dignitaries, including the Governor of Benue State, Rev. Father Hyacinth Alia; former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen; and retired justices from various courts.