Welcome address delivered by the Administrator of The National Judicial Institute (NJI), Hon. Justice Salisu Garba Abdullahi, at The Opening Ceremony of the 2021 All Nigeria Judges’ Conference of the Superior Courts, held at the Andrews Otutu Obaseki Auditorium, National Judicial Institute, Abuja, on 19th November, 2021
Your Excellencies, My Lords, Invited Dignitaries, Members of the Press, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. With the kind permission of the Honourable, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute, it gives me great pleasure to welcome all Delegates and Distinguished Guests to the opening ceremony of the 2021 All Nigeria Judges’ Conference of the Superior Courts.
The National Judicial Institute and its Board of Governors under the leadership of its Chairman, the Honourable, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Dr. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CFR, FNJI, wishes to specially welcome His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR to this year’s edition of the Conference. His Excellency has never failed to accept our invitation to open this Conference and it is indeed a privilege to have your Excellency back despite the onerous affairs of State. Your Excellency, we are truly honoured, delighted and grateful indeed.
The All Nigeria Judges’ Conference of the Superior Courts is held biennially by the National Judicial Institute, to fulfil its mandate of providing qualitative continuing judicial education for all categories of Judicial Officers and their Supporting Staff. The Conference has been a seminal event that draws Judges and Justices from the Nation’s Superior Courts to associate with one another, exchange ideas and best practices while discussing critical issues affecting the dispensation of justice in Nigeria.
It may also be described as a stock taking event for Judicial Officers of Superior Courts of Record. This is because the Conference draws upon experiences from Judicial Officers who attend from all over the country as we converge to reflect upon the activities of the Judiciary with the benefit of hindsight. The end result of this remains the development of strategies, policies and best practices that will improve upon the dispensation of justice in Nigeria
Since the establishment of the National Judicial Institute in 1991, the hosting of the All Nigeria Judges Conference has served to remind Judicial Officers of their crucial role in the society. More than ever, the Judiciary is perhaps faced with the need to balance conflicting interests with a bid to ensuring a stable polity. More than ever, lady Justice needs to balance the scale of justice so as to ensure that Nigeria fulfils its true potential as Africa’s Giant. I believe that the Conference will contribute in no small measure to promoting the role of the Judiciary as the Third arm of Government.
The theme of this year’s Conference, “Promoting Judicial Excellence in the Administration of Justice” is timely, considering the role of the Judiciary towards stabilising our democracy. The importance of that role is no more evident than in the provision of Section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and other provisions of Chapter VII of our grundnorm, which clothes us with wide ranging powers. Our constitutional powers similarly thrusts on our Judges a sobering amount of responsibility to fairly, justly, judiciously and impartially exercise Judicial Powers.
Your Excellency, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is indeed worth reiterating that the Judiciary, as an arbiter, has an important role to play, by ensuring speedy resolution of disputes. As we all know, the speedy resolution of disputes; and particularly financial and/or commercial disputes; remains an economic development catalyst, as investors and other financial institutions will remain confident that their investments are safe.
This puts us on the frontline in providing confidence for citizens and foreign partners through a scrupulous, fearless interpretation of the law and Statutes that govern the subject matter of our Jurisdictions. By synergising together over the next few days, we will acquire new knowledge that will better equip us to fulfil our constitutional mandate.
In fostering this quality discourse, the National Judicial Institute, will continue to act in line with its statutory mandate to train and retrain Judicial Officers. Over the next few days, the Institute will create the best platform and environment to promote greater understanding of topical, emergent issues affecting the Bench.
This is not new. The Institute has collaborated with other Arms of Government to identify issues and Legislations or guidelines that are likely come before our Courts. The National Judicial Institute and the PTDF recently held a collaborative workshop to enable Judicial Officers to understand the new Petroleum Industry Act and its impact on justice delivery. This is indicative of the Institute’s many workshops all geared towards sharpening the skill sets of Judicial Officers and Support Staff and ensuring a modern, speedy and efficient administration of Justice.
The Institute also continues to proactively identify the training needs of Judicial Officers and Staff. Thus we will continue to engage with our Nation’s Judges in Seminars and workshops, which are aimed at building their capacity and expanding their knowledge in all fields based on training needs we have identified. Conferences of this nature therefore provide an invaluable forum for discussions on existing thorny issues which could help facilitate the better understanding and appreciation of the judicial process.
Your Excellencies, invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, a modernised Judiciary is key to ensuring speedy justice delivery. This is a realisation that has resulted in the Institute keeping up with the times in terms of its training methodology. Indeed, it gives me great pleasure to state that in the wake of the covid 19 Pandemic, the Institute, under the leadership of the Hon. CJN and Board of Governors, commenced the improvement of this training capacity via the virtual training Platforms. We are currently online platforms to connect with many Judicial Officers nationwide as we can all observe with this ceremony.
This pragmatic step was taken in line with NCDC directives, NJC Guidelines for Courts 2020 and global best practices. It has enabled us to engage Judicial Officers positively and aid their transition to a technology based system with suitable online or remote alternatives to physical hearings. The upshot of this policy is to operate a digital system that embraces multiple dispute resolution methods that are not only physical but also virtual. Naturally, we will need in all this to safeguard the needs of open justice but I am confident that this is perfectly feasible.
Our curriculum and facilities have been remarkably improved to meet the emergent needs that the Judiciary is facing. The Institute has diversified its programmes to include areas such as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and even emerging areas such as the e-Naira, which was recently introduced and unveiled by Mr President.
Your Excellency, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Institute stands poised to build on its successes. We believe that when we improve the quality of training and positively impact judicial performance, the Nigerian Judiciary will become more efficient. This will also make the Third Arm better placed to provide the type of justice delivery that will ultimately promote the dividends of democracy in Nigeria.
In closing my address, I want to, with a sincere heart and utmost humility, thank His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, for taking out time to address and open this Conference in spite of His Excellency’s busy schedule. It is our prayer that the Almighty God will continue to grant His Excellency good health, wisdom and forthrightness as he steers the affairs of our great country.
I must not fail to thank the Honourable, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute, Hon. Dr. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CFR, FNJI, for his unrelenting support for the activities of the National Judicial Institute.
Your Excellency, My Lords, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me to also express my profound appreciation to the Chairman of the Education Committee of the Board of Governors of the Institute, Hon. Justice Mary Peter Odili, CFR, JSC and Members of the Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute.
Furthermore, my profound gratitude goes to their Lordships, the former Chief Justices of Nigeria and erstwhile Chairmen, Board of Governors of the Institute here with us this morning. I thank the Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the Court of Appeal of Nigeria, here present. I also appreciate the Heads of Courts of various jurisdictions.
I cannot forget to also recognise the President of the Senate and Distinguished Senators here present as well as the Speaker and Honourable members of the House of Representatives, the Service Chiefs, and our very distinguished invited guests.
I am in particular, indebted to the former Administrators of the National Judicial Institute, here in our midst this morning. They worked to preserve the legacy we enjoy today and I can assure your Lordships that I will positively build on the legacies that you left behind.
I express my profound gratitude to the Chairmen of Sessions and Resource Persons, who have been carefully chosen to share their wealth of experience and knowledge with us. I urge my Lords the Distinguished participants to pay rapt attention, contribute meaningfully and participate actively at this Conference.
I thank the Fourth Estate of the Realm, for their presence and reportage of the programmes of the Judiciary. I urge you all to continue to constructively work with the Judiciary to ensure accurate reportage and thereby promote credible news coverage of our Courts.
Your Excellency, my Lords, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now my singular honour and privilege to invite the Honourable, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute, Hon. Dr. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CFR, FNJI, to deliver his Address.
I wish you all very fruitful and rewarding deliberations.
Hon. Justice Salisu Garba Abdullahi
National Judicial Institute, Abuja