By Agatha Emeadi

Presidential candidate of Labour Party, Peter Obi, has bemoaned the state of Nigeria’s judiciary, which, he said, is witnessing an undeniable decline.

He said although there were still a few good judges and justices, the situation was worrisome and a threat to the future of the nation and advocated stronger institutions and standard rule of law to save the country’s future and democracy.

Delivering a keynote speech, entitled: “The Role of the Judiciary in Shaping Nigeria’s Future,” during the fifth memorial of Justice Anthony Nnaemeka Aniagolu, at the Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, Obi said: “While the judiciary, today, still boasts of a few outstanding judges, there is an undeniable decline in our judicial system. This decline poses a significant threat to the future of Nigeria. Justice is increasingly commodified, and delivered in favour of the highest bidder.

“When the rule of law is compromised, the most vulnerable members of society are disproportionately affected, and the fabric of our society begins to fray. The integrity of our institutions, the protection of human rights, and the stability of our nation are all jeopardised.

“The rule of law is the highest intangible and most valuable asset of any society, and we must work tirelessly to protect and preserve it. We must prioritise the pursuit of justice above all else.

“Only then can we ensure the rule of law remains a beacon of hope and a safeguard against tyranny, oppression, and injustice. The future of our nation depends on it

“In my address to the audience, I emphasised the urgent need to revitalise our judicial system by safeguarding its independence and promoting the values of character, competence, capability, compassion, and integrity among our jurists, as well as within our political leadership. By doing so, we can ensure justice and fairness prevail as we endeavour to build a better Nigeria for all.”

Obi noted the greatest challenge confronting Nigerian democracy is not the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but the activities of the judiciary in the dispensation of justice and administration of the rule of law.

“One cannot talk about judiciary without talking about the rule of law as Nigeria has become a difficult country for foreign investors unlike other African countries like Rwanda, Mauritius, even Kenya and Ghana. Nigeria insecurity and poor rule of law remains the challenge. Where we are presently, if we did not get it right, we all will regret it.

“Nigeria has become a country where anything goes. There is no rule of law, there is almost no judiciary. Everybody could be pushed down because there is no rule of law.

“Whenever democracy is discussed, fingers point to INEC as the problem. But INEC is not the problem, instead, the judiciary is. The judiciary is the biggest threat to Nigeria. If our judiciary is effective, our businesses will thrive. But because it has become commercialised and depends on how much one pays, it has become difficult to get true justice in the judiciary and at any point in time, where the judiciary is not working, the society suffers.”

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Obi recalled he was the greatest beneficiary of the judiciary, stressing, however, that though he had gone to court to recover his election as governor of Anambra State, as well as recovered his tenure in office, the judiciary then and now were not the same.

“This is not to say there are no good and courageous judges presently but they are very few. We need to have a situation where those who are ready to protect the sanctity of the rule of law are more in number than those who will compromise it. In the absence of doing the right thing by the judiciary, the people suffer. That there are conflicting court injunctions everywhere is an indication that something is wrong with the system. Members of the judiciary should review their actions and activities to know how useful they are to the society because the future revolves around rule of law.

“In the days of strong judiciary, people were able to challenge what was wrong. But today, what one hears is go to court knowing that the system has been compromised. The days when we had strong institutions, people were able to do things in the interest of the country.

“That is why people contest elections to win at all costs and go to court to get endorsement.”

The future of Nigeria with what is happening today, the level of lawlessness, if we don’t do anything, none of us will be here any longer. We have a problem that we all need to see how we can start solving. The biggest threat of Nigeria, and our democracy is the judiciary. Let us rise and be patriotic for the good of Nigeria.”

Aniagolu, retired justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria died in 2011. While extolling his virtues, Obi praised him for what he stood for while alive and served the Supreme Court and urged other justices to emulate him.

“Aniagolu served his country in all honesty before he went to the bench,” he said.

Obi said there was a lot to learn from the integrity of the late justice and his class of justices.

“It was truly an honour to pay tribute to one of Nigeria’s most esteemed jurists, the late Justice of the Supreme Court, Anthony Nnaemeka Aniagolu. His illustrious career, particularly as a justice of the Supreme Court from 1978 to 1987, brought immense honour to our judiciary through his unwavering integrity and steadfast commitment to upholding the rule of law and ensuring justice in our nation.

“As we commemorate the legacy of Aniagolu and other revered Nigerian judges, we must draw inspiration from their exemplary service. We must strive to emulate their dedication to integrity, fairness, respect for the rule of law, transparency, humility, and the dispensation of justice.

Obi also thanked his children who are following the right footstep of their father and encouraged them to keep up the good work.

Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu is a private institution owned and managed by the Catholic church.