The Senate has confirmed Justice Aloma Mariam Murtkar, as the new Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), after she scaled through a grueling two-hour drill on judicial and administrative matters.
Answering questions from senators, Justice Muktar assured that she would clean up the judiciary and redeem its public perception. She decried the unconstitutional withholding of state judiciary funds by state governors and lamented the spate of conflicting judgments from the divisions in the courts of appeal.
“I will try to make sure that the confidence reposed in the judiciary, as it was before, is restored,” she said.
“I will try as much as possible to ensure that the bad eggs that are there are taken out. There will be a cleansing by the NJC based on petition. It is sad that the ordinary man on the street now thinks and feels that he will not get justice, and this is because of the situation we find ourselves in. I will ensure that this perception is changed.”
She expressed regrets that corruption had become part of every system in the society, and the judiciary had its own share of it. “What I intend to do to curb this is to lead by example and to hope and pray that others will follow,” she said.
“As the chairman of the National Judicial Council, I will encourage internal cleansing based on petition. But that is not to say that I will condone frivolous petitions. Each petition will be looked at on its merit. And I will also seek the permission of my colleagues in the council to ensure that discipline is enforced accordingly.”
She expressed the concern of every well-meaning Nigerian on terrorism, saying she would ensure compliance with any terrorism law that is passed. She also said it would be unfair to blame prison congestion on judicial officers alone since prosecutors and defense councils have to be able to plead their cases appropriately.
While she seemed to have a soft stance on plea bargain, which she said is harmless so long it is done in good faith, she expressed support for declaration of assets by public office holders.
“I would have thought that declaring every four years will suffice,” she said. “Every four years as it is now can be maintained; and to extend it to private concern, I do not know if there is any provision for that in the constitution.”
Following her confirmation, president of the Senate, David Mark said that it was clear that there were a number of issues that the Judiciary would need to tackle to be able to improve its public perception and ensure steady dispensation of justice.
“We can only pray that Honourable Muhktar will improve the condition in which she has found the Judiciary,” he said. “We will work together with the Executive and the Judiciary to ensure that there is fairness and there is progress and development in this country.”
In same vein, special adviser to the president on National Assembly matters, Senator Joy Emordi described Murktar's confirmation as historic and based more on merit than on federal character. She noted that her emergence as CJN is a clarion call for women to embrace education and professional excellence. More Kudos to her elbow. Congratulations, My Lady.