The Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen has said the country is doomed without the rule of law and charged judicial officers to remain steadfast in the buildup to next year’s general election.
Justice Onnoghen, who spoke during the commissioning and official opening of an ultra-modern Court of Appeal Complex, in Calabar, yesterday, called judges to remain firm, no matter whose ox is gored, and always be mindful of the fact that the society depends on justices and the decision they make.
Accompanied by the President of the Court of Appeal, Zainab Bulkachuwa, and the Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, the CJN said: “I use this opportunity to still call on judicial officers in the country to remain steadfast to their oath of office, the constitution of the country and continue to remember that without the rule of law, the society is doomed.
“Hold firm to the wheels of justice and ensure that when cases are placed on a scale, whichever weighs more should be where the judgment should go. It does not matter whose ox is gored, because the society depends on us, and that decision you have to take. The society survives because you are courageous enough to tell whoever is wrong that ‘you are wrong’.”
He noted that politicians are warming up with all sorts of gimmicks, tactics and plans, and urged the judicial officers to be ready to do justice to all manner of persons, without fear of persons or ill will.
He described the edifice as magnificent and recalled how, as a young lawyer, he travelled to Enugu for several cases from Calabar, because of the absence of an Appeal Court in Calabar, and how lawyers had accidents and died while travelling to Enugu.
He said with the Appeal Court now in Calabar, all those issues would be mitigated while the dispensation of justice will be faster.
Speaking on behalf of the profession, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Senator Kanu Agabi, commended the judiciary for standing firm and helping to shape the country, through their decisions, over time, which has helped prevent anarchy.
He emphasised that the best arm of the government is the judiciary and noted that their courage, intelligence and hard work have continued to sustain the country. He stressed that without an independent judiciary to enforce the rule of law, it would not be long before the elected officers cease to remain in office.
“By ensuring sound judgments, the judges and justices immortalise themselves. The monuments we build will all, one day, be erased, even this court of appeal will one day cease to be. There is no structure standing in the country today that will not, one day, be demolished, but, not the judgments of our court.
“The decisions of our courts are shaping the country and by these, the judges have demonstrated their capacity and disposition to save the country from anarchy. They are proving that is, indeed, the third arm of government,” he said.
In her welcome address, the president of the Court of Appeal, Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, said the edifice, which was supposed to take 12 months took 12 years, and the challenges encountered in the course of constructing the facility could make volumes of reading materials.
She commended judicial officers for their steadfastness, despite the challenges of operating in the previous building, particularly, when it was gutted by fire. He expressed appreciation to the former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, for donating the land for the facility.