Reactions have started trailing the appointment of new judges by the National Judicial Council (NJC), with some legal practitioners calling for a total overhauling of the highest judicial body in the country.
The appointment, which has continued to draw flaks from members of the Nigerian bars, was done last week in which about 33 new judges were appointed to the Federal, State High Courts, Sharia Courts of Appeal and Customary Courts across the country.
Calls have been made by some legal practitioners for urgent surgical (constitutional) reform of the NJC by removing all serving and retired judges from the Council because its present constitution only continues an entrenched privatisation of the judiciary by making it a family institution.
One vocal voice in the current condemnation is that of Silas Joseph Onu Esq, who in a release on Tuesday, 28 April, 2020 entitled: “As Nigeria Gradually Dies from the Hands of those it Fed,” said majority of those appointed to the bench did not merit the appointment but only got the positions because they were either sons and daughters of serving or retired justices or those of Senior Advocates of Nigerian (SAN).
Those appointed are: Muhammad Mustapha Adamu; Madugu Mohammed Alhaji; Josephine Obanor Enobie; Kayode Agunloye; Enenche Eleojo; Nwabulu Ngozika Chineze; Abubakar Babashani; Aminu Muhammad Abdullahi; Nwecheonwu; Chinyere Elewe; Ibrahim Mohammed; and Sadia Mu’azu Mayana.
Also on the list are: Mimi Anne Katsina Alu-Apena; Kanyip Rosemary Indinya; Aliyu Yunusa Shafa; Mohammed Zubairu; Binta Dogonyaro; Christopher Opeyemi Oba; Adeyemi Ajayi Jadesola; Abubakar Husseini Musa; Adelaja Oluyemisi Ikeolupo.
Others include: Mohammed Idris Sani; Frances Erhuvwu Messiri; Fatima Abubakar Aliyu; Jude Ogor Onwuegbuzie; Hamza Mu’azu; Edward Ajenu E. Okpe; Agashieze Cyprian Odinaka; Fashola Akeem Adebowale; Aliyu Halilu Ahmed; Hassan Maryam Aliyu; Hafsat Lawan Abba-Aliyu; Olufola Olufolashade Oshin and Njideka K. Nwosu-Iheme.
Onu, who was the past Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Abuja branch, stated that apart from the fact that the appointees did not meet the minimum expectation of the Federal Character policy; the list is flooded with the names of the children of serving and retired Supreme Court Justices.
According to him, this mode of appointment only served to privatise the judiciary and by extension encourage mediocrity on the Bench across the country.
The released read inter alia: “In recent past, I have called for a reform of the NJC through a Constitutional amendment that will remove all serving and retired judges from the council as the presence have only ensured that they have now privatised the judiciary by making it a family institution.
“It is far easier to be a judge without a day’s experience in legal practice if your father or mother was or is a superior Court judge. The room for the rest of Nigerians in the appointment of judges is usually very small – just to make it look like a fair game.
“The same tactic of privatising the judiciary is currently happening in the legal practice where it has been shown, repeatedly, that it is easier for a lawyer without a track record of exceptional practice to be rewarded with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria upon meeting the basic requirement of age, if his father or mother is or was a Senior Advocate or a Superior Court judge.
“The rank is shared by a few in an effort to place their children above their peers undeservedly. That has seen the emergence of SANs who still hide under the shadow of their parents to proof their capacity for the rank.
“Apart from not meeting the minimum expectation of the Federal Character principle, it is replete with the names of the children of serving and retired Supreme Court Justices, one was even a Chief Justice, the child of retired FCT Chief Judge and other cronies.
“Some of these privileged children are magistrates with questionable qualities for the job, yet they got elevated ahead of known magistrates who have served for a longer period with years of experience and dedication to duty. These experienced magistrates will be frustrated out of the job over time as their parents were never superior Court judges. How can a nation progress with such an attitude? “
Onu lamented that the continued muteness of Nigerians legal practitioners, fearing they might lose patronage over these atrocities, is capable of harming the nation as a whole, adding that majority of the people in the judicial circle knew these things to be wrong, but they would prefer to praise the CJN for the corrupt appointments than condemn it.
He warned that failure to complain today would bring serious negative consequences in the near future and this would metamorphose in the dishing out crazy judgments out of the courts and at that stage legal practitioners would begin to complain, feign ignorance of the origin of the problem.
The legal practitioner decried the attitude of making the office of a judge just another job only to earn salary, without the requisite passion for justice, saying the consequences of these indiscretions of the NJC would live with and eventually obstruct the justice sector in Nigeria.
He therefore affirmed his condemnation of the recent appointments, which according to him, only favours family members of serving and retired judges as there could be no justification for it such appointments.