The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, has emphasized that judicial officers base their decisions solely on the law and the constitution, and not on public opinion.
He stated that the court is guided by the law when adjudicating cases and public debates cannot influence judgments.
“Several vitriolic attacks are regularly heaped on the Judiciary; it is, however, crystal clear that public opinion, no matter how serious or weighty it might be, cannot override or supersede the constitution of the country, which we apply in deciding each case,” Justice Ariwoola said.
The CJN gave this submission in Abuja while administering the oath of office to 23 new judges of the Federal High Court (FHC).
In recent times, many social media users have put judicial officers under pressure to influence the political cases before them.
Jurists have also been exposed to attacks on their persons and threats to their family members.
Members of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, went under attacks by those who wanted to influence their decisions.
A group of people installed billboards in major cities with the inscription “All eyes on the Judiciary”, an apparent attempt to intimidate them.
Some others also shared the justices’ photographs and phone numbers on social media, asking people to continuously call them and send them messages – all in a bid to influence their judgment.
Delivering their verdict, the justices decried the many attempts to coerce them into submission.
Justice Ariwoola reminded the new judges that their appointment, though a new chapter in their existence, would now completely expose them, like everyone in public office, to daily public scrutiny.
Justice Ariwoola urged them to be committed to their oath of office and always be driven by the spirit of fairness and justice.
He said: “The entire letters and words of the oath you have just taken must reside in a prime place of your heart and be generously applied in your adjudications.
“This is a bond that you should engrave in your heart and be well guided by it while adjudicating in all matters that come before you.
“You must be impartial, fair to all, and apply justice in all your undertakings. The times that we are in, are quite perilous, so we need judicial officers who are calculative, honest, objective, and dispassionate in all ramifications.
“Thus, your appointments to the bench at this crucial period of our national history are not by accident but by divine ordination.
“Like it is often said, a clear conscience fears no accusation. He who comes to equity, as we all say, must come with clean hands. So, your Lordships must sever ties with anything that will smear your hands and bring you into disrepute in the course of your new assignment.”
Warning the judges against unethical conduct, the CJN said that the National Judicial Council (NJC) will not hesitate to wield the big stick when necessary.