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1 IJOCLLEP 1 (2019)

handle is hein.journals/inljlocv1 and id is 1 raw text is: OBIDIMMA: Investigation and Prosecution of Judicial Officers in Nigeria: Effects on the Independence of the
Judiciary and Judicial Immunity
In the light of the fundamental role of the judiciary in the society, it is important to ensure its independence and
impartiality in carrying out its functions. The essence of the common law/statutory concept of judicial immunity
as well as the constitutional provisions on independence of the judiciary is to guard the judges in the performance
of their onerous tasks of acting as the guardian of the constitution and the fundamental rights, among others; to
ensure that they are permitted to administer these tasks independently and freely, without fear or favour. However
when judgments are obtained fraudulently, the society and the nation are endangered. It is therefore a very
worrisome development that the judiciary in Nigeria is being accused of corruption and the spate of investigations
and prosecutions of judges for corruption in Nigeria is on the increase. Though a welcome idea; for by the nature
of the judicial function, the worst form of corruption is judicial corruption, caution has to be exercised to ensure
that the necessary procedures are followed and that this is done for the right reasons. The paper discusses the
investigation and prosecution of the judicial officers in the light of the corrupt antics of the political class and the
necessity to ensure that this is done rightly to avoid exposing the judicial officers to the whims and caprices of the
executive and the legislature. This is necessary, to ensure that the judiciary is not striped of their independence
and become slaves of the executive, as that will have very harrowing effects on our fledging constitutional
democracy. The paper after appraising concludes that the rising tide of corruption is wide spread in Nigeria with
the Judiciary not left out. However there is need in curbing the corruption particularly in the judiciary to observe
all the constitutional and other statutory safeguards that are necessary to insulate them from the antics of other
arms of government in order not to create undue fear in the judicial officers and thus erode their independence.
Keywords: Independence, Immunity, Judicial Officers, Judiciary, Prosecution, Criminal, Corruption
1. Introduction
It has been generally acknowledged that the judiciary among other things is the guardian of our constitution, the
protector of our governance under the rule of law the guardian of our fundamental rights, the enforcer of all laws,
the maintainer of public order and security, the guarantee against arbitrariness etc. In the light of the fundamental
role that the judiciary performs in the society it is important to ensure its independence and impartiality in carrying
out its functions. The issue of immunity of judges in the discharge of their functions is also important with regards
to the question of independence of the judiciary. Thus the judges who are appointed to administer the law should
be permitted to administer it under the protection of the law independently and freely, without fear or favour.
These provisions of the law are not for the protection or benefit of a malicious of corrupt judge, but for the benefit
of the public whose interest it is that judges should be at liberty to exercise their functions with independence and
without fear or consequences. Since the judges are charged with the ultimate decisions over life, freedoms, rights,
duties and property of citizens it follows that without independence, they have little chance of discharging these
onerous responsibilities.
Independence of the judiciary is indeed the life-blood of constitutionalism in all democratic societies and one of
the pillars upon which our constitutional democracy exits.1 The freedom of the judiciary from the influence of the
other branches of government is essential to the achievement and proper functioning of a free, just and democratic
society based on the principles of constitutionalism and the rule of law.2 The role of the judiciary is very essential
as they complement and complete the political system.3 It checks the government through judicial review, settles
disputes between individuals and groups, and interprets the law, beginning with the constitution as the grundnorm.
Judicial independence is therefore the key for effective performance of these and other judicial functions.4
In order to perform these functions effectively judges must be above board, in this vein the judiciary is the only
arm of government made up only of appointed personnel, as they perform the fundamental role of adjudication
which sometimes has a greater effect on the lives of the people than the actions of the other two arms of
government. Part of judicial accountability is that judges who fail to live up to the expectations of their call must
*By Angela E. OBIDIMMA, PhD, Reader (Associate Professor), Head, Department of Public and Private Law, Faculty of
Law, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra     State, Nigeria. Tel.: No. 234-8033151554. Email:
'Submissions of the Senior Presiding Justice of the Peace to the 2010 Judicial Compensation Commission P.1
3Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, Preamble, UN Human Rights Commission Resolutions 40/32 (Nov.
29 1985) and 40/146 (Dec. 13 1985).
4PC Aka, 'Judicial Independence under Nigeria's Fourth Republic: Problem and Prospects, '(2014) Western International Law
Journal Vol. 45 Fall. No. 1


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