Lawyers have expressed concern over the recent nomination of 27 judges for appointment into the appellate court, saying the move smacked of sectionalism and quota rather than merit.
The list of nominees, made up of mainly judges of northern extraction, sparked debate on social media, with observers questioning the modalities for filling vacancies at the court.
Although, the director of information, Nigeria Judicial Council (NJC), Mr. Soji Oye, dismissed the list as fake, some stakeholders argued that the ‘authentic’ version would not be entirely different.
Oye said: “The council wishes to dissociate itself completely from the said list, as nothing of such emanated from it. Members of the public are also advised to discountenance the said list, which is nothing but a figment of the imagination of the authors. In the days ahead, the council will speak more on the ongoing process for the appointment of judges into different cadre of the Nigerian judiciary.”
But Chief Albert Akpomudje (SAN) said “exception” should be made to the use of quota in the appointment of judges “because it is bringing the standard too low for some part of the country. It is very sad. Those who are benefiting from the status quo see it as a birthright and don’t see anything wrong with it.”
He added: “In The Gambia, they have lawyers who could be judges, but because they didn’t merit it by experience and qualification, the chief justice of The Gambia was a Nigerian. The president of the court of appeal of The Gambia was a Nigerian.
“So, if a country like that can take a foreigner to head its judiciary, that means they know it is a special arm of government and nobody should lower the standard. A lot of our judges were chief judges in Botswana. We are trying to be too jealous of ours, thereby lowering the standard. This idea of lowering the standard for the north is not even helping them.”
Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) also stressed that appointment to the bench should be merit driven, “determined by three factors – past records, integrity and intelligence. What did you do when you were in practice and what did you do when you were at the bench? Then you must be intelligent. And above all, you must have integrity. There must be nothing about corruption on you. You must live a corrupt free life.”
Former attorney general of old Benue State, Chief Mamman Mike Osuman (SAN), however noted that quota is a constitutional clause. “Because it is a constitutional provision, quota system must be applied for judicial officers. But the provision is not qualified in terms of number. It just states that there is going to be a quota system.” Read more