Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights/Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele has faulted the media reports that the Senate is set to probe the finances of the Supreme Court following a leaked letter signed by fourteen Justices of the apex court.
The lawmaker said contrary to media reports, the Senate is not probing the Senate or Judiciary as a whole, but carry out a comprehensive investigation on the finances of the apex court.
Mr Bamidele, a former commissioner in Lagos State who confirmed that he moved the motion for the investigation, added that the media is reporting the intention of the senate out of context.
He made this clarifications on Friday while appearing on TVC This Morning show with Yori Folarin.
“It is important for the public to understand that what we want to do is not a probe. What we are about to do is not a probe of Judiciary on the allegation of corruption contrary to media report. What we want to do is a much more comprehensive investigation and it is not aimed at probing the judiciary.”
Explaining the concept of separation of powers as it relates to the three arms of government, the lawmaker said “the judiciary itself is another arm of the government which has its own way of regulating its own conduct and activities. What is at play here is what is constitutionally understood to be the kind of checks and balances that need to exist while upholding the settled principle of separation of power among the three arms of govt.
“Basically, what we are trying to do is what was commenced by the Judiciary itself. Fourteen justices of the supreme court wrote a letter on major complaints. Shortly after that, we saw a situation where the CJN put in his resignation on health ground and of course, we all felt for him in that regard and part of the purpose of the motion was for us institutionally as a senate is to wish him well in his retirement, But however, it is also important to emphasise that it is our belief and conviction that CJN Muhammad having left or, stepped aside, the issue remains.
“Before the letter, there have been issues that needed to be addressed and then of course, the letter further brought the urgent need to address these issues in order to ensure that the Judiciary itself does not shut down as an institution because it is the last hope of common man, arbiter between the executive and the legislature. So we felt there’s need for us to be the catalyst to ensure that all the critical stakeholders – the bench, the bar, and other arms of government that have something to do with independence of the judiciary for us to come together to ensure that we are able to look at these issues and find out the short, medium and long term measures that need to be taken to ensure that we arrest the crisis bedeviling the judiciary.”
Mr Bamidele, who is also a lawyer, said the action of the fourteen Justices of the Supreme Court is alien to the Judiciary and a bad omen for the country’s judicial system. “It is not customary, it is something extremely unusual for justices of Supreme Court to come together and write a letter. Even though we are told the letter is not meant for public consumption but whatever the intention is, it is something very unusual. So for our justices to do something like that, it means it has gotten to a critical point and anything beyond this point of course can make the beginning of shutdown.”
He said Justices of the Supreme Court and the Judiciary as a whole needed to be treated with dignity.
Senator Bamidele however disagreed with those blaming the National Assembly for the financial crisis in the Judiciary. “It is not the national Assembly that appropriate funds to the Judiciary, it is the Executive that determines what goes to every arm of government, national Assembly only oversees.”
On the terms and references of the investigation, Mr Bamidele said the committee has four weeks to conclude its investigation but said it can be shorter or longer if the need arises.
“The committee has four weeks, but it doesn’t need to last that long and we can also request for extension. We would do this devoid of any kind of sensational attention. We are going to do this devoid of any form of sensational approach. The judiciary is a very peculiar institution, we need to handle this with all the care and caution that is required. A lot of meetings we’re going to have will be behind the closed-door that’s we’re not going to make it a public hearing.”
Mr Bamidele said ex-CJN Tanko Muhammad and other living but retired Justices of the Supreme Court will be invited to help share their ideas on how to resolve issues affecting the finances of the Supreme court and that of the Judiciary.
“Ex-CJN Tanko Muhammad will be part of the investigation. But contrary to what media reports are saying, the investigation is not denying him of any privilege expected to be accorded him for serving meritoriously. You will remember that he’s already being honoured with the award of GCON.”