M.I ANUSHIEM, Obinna Mbanugo, Chinemelum Nelson Arinze-Umobi


Judges constitute the judiciary which is the third arm of government of every democratic government. In any country where democracy is practised, the judiciary is created under the Constitution to be independent and to manage its affairs without unnecessary interference from the other two arms of government, the executive and the legislature. The essence of judicial independence is to ensure impartiality and fairness in the dispensation of justice which is freely given without fear of intimidation, threat, ill-will and harassment from any other arm of government. Today, corruption which is an anathema to a sane society is alleged to have crept into the judiciary in Nigeria and the fight against corruption prompted the subjection of serving judges to criminal trial by the agencies of the executive. Thus, in present political dispensation in Nigeria we have witnessed the arrest of judges by government agencies and their subsequent criminal trials. This raises a lot of constitutional issues bordering on judicial independence. This paper inter alia seeks to analyze the constitutionality or otherwise of the criminal trial of judges in Nigeria and its legal implication for Nigeria’s nascent democracy; attempts to reconcile with the constitutional imperatives for subjecting serving judges to criminal trials for acts or omissions done by them in the exercise of their judicial powers and functions which amount to breaches of judicial Oath of Conduct and at the same time qualify as offences under the relevant criminal laws in Nigeria and the need to ensure that the judiciary is cleansed of corruption in order to ensure free and impartial judicial system. In the end, the writers found that although corruption may be said to have crept into the judiciary and that there is need to exorcise the judiciary of it, the fight must be done within the constitutional limits in order not to impair or hamper the independence granted the judiciary by the constitution. This will safeguard the gains inherent in the practice of a democratic system of governance.

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