This a is a very shocking picture of the Chief Justice of Nigeria kow-towing to a former governor, Godswill Akpabio alleged to have stolen billions of Akwa Ibom dollars and using to influence court judgments.
Former governor of Akwa Ibom State akpabio, and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, at a public function
Judges Independence and Impartiality and Ethical Bheavious
I cannot imagine a high court Judge, how much less the Chief Judge of a country socializing with a well known senator of a political party.
It is not enough for the judiciary, as an institution, to be independent – individual judges must be seen to be objective and impartial.
Outside the courtroom, judges do not socialize or associate with lawyers or other persons connected with the cases they hear, or they may be accused of favouritism.
A publication on Judicial principles and ethics states that, “Judges should also consider whether mere attendance at certain public gatherings might reasonably give rise to a perception of ongoing political involvement or reasonably put in question the judge’s impartiality on an issue that could come before the court”.
Judges typically declare a conflict and withdraw from a case that involves relatives or friends. The same is true if the case involves a former client, a member of the judge’s former law firm, law partners or a former business associate, at least until a year or two has passed since the judge was appointed and those ties were severed.
This picture is worrying emerging just few days after the Supreme Court has awarded a highly contentious ruling in favour of Akapabio’s surrogate in Akwa Ibom governorship tussle.
In their personal lives, judges must avoid words, actions or situations that might make them appear to be biased or disrespectful of the laws they are sworn to uphold. They must treat lawyers, clients and witnesses with respect and must refrain from comments that suggest they have made up their minds in advance.
Judges often choose to avoid most forms of community involvement. A judge may undertake community or charitable work but cannot offer legal or investment advice. Judges cannot take part in politics, either as a party member, fundraiser or donor, and many choose to relinquish their right to vote. While judges have been more willing in recent years to make public speeches or agree to media interviews, they refrain from expressing opinions on legal issues that could come before them in a future case. Judges are forbidden from being paid to do anything other than their judicial duties, but can accept appointments to serve on royal commissions, inquiries and other official investigations.
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