The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, on Monday, implored judges across the federation to shun all forms of bias and do justice in all cases before them, saying it was the only way to restore confidence in the judiciary.
The CJN, who spoke at the opening ceremony of the Biennial Conference of the National Association of Women Judges in Nigeria, NAWJN, stressed that the judiciary, being the last hope of the common man, judges must strive to interpret the law at all times without affection and ill-will.
“The Judiciary is saddled with the responsibility of upholding the Rule of Law by interpreting, construing and applying the relevant laws.
“As women judges in the 21st Century, I encourage you to interpret the law at all times without bias, affection and ill will.
“The Judiciary is indeed the last hope of the common man and we as Judicial Officers must strive to preserve the confidence reposed in us by society,” the CJN added.
He said the objective of the conference was to reinforce the capacity of women judges in the judiciary “who are vital stakeholders in the fight against numerous injustices in the polity”.
According to the CJN, “It is safe to say that certain vices in society have a greater impact on women and the girl-child and this forum allows for discourse along these lines.
“I must mention that violent crimes against the female gender include sexual slavery and human trafficking, rape and female genital mutilation which still persists despite efforts to eradicate same.
“As such, the forum avails us the opportunity to discuss salient issues arising from policy formation and recent legislations that have the potential of having an impact on women in the society.
“As we are all aware, trafficking in persons has become a canker worm, which has eaten deep into the different spheres of our society. It is an issue which largely affects women and as such, the ongoing fight against human trafficking therefore remains a task that all stakeholders must close ranks to tackle, as it is the desire of most Nigerians that this hydra-headed monster be curbed.
“Towards this end; and in light of the foregoing, your Conference has been designed to acquaint delegates with emerging developments on combating human trafficking as well as other key issues.
“It is my conviction that this forum will serve as an avenue to enlighten distinguished delegates on global best practices in confronting challenges arising from this special area of the law,” the CJN stated.
In her welcome address, the President of NAWJN, Justice Jummai Sankey, said the theme of the conference; “Ending Violence Against Women and Children”, was in line with the goal of the association to sensitize stakeholders in the criminal justice system on the need to work together to end Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, SGBV, as well as all forms. of violence against women and children in the society.
Justice Sankey noted that though statistics showed that in the judiciary, women were closer than other arms of government to the 35% affirmative action, having produced a female CJN, two female Presidents of the Court of Appeal, as well as several justices of the Supreme Court, she said there was room for improvement.
“Women judges should therefore not test on our oars. Rather, this should serve as a clarion call to your lordships to strike to excel in our various jurisdictions, continue to work diligently and serve with integrity in order to encourage more appointments of women judges to the Bench and leadership positions in the judiciary,” Justice Sankey added.