A civil society group, Access to Justice (A2 Justice), yesterday raised the alarm over appointments of ‘unqualified’ persons as Judges and Justices of various courts across the country, warning that something must be done urgently to reverse the trend.
The group, while accusing the National Judicial Council (NJC) of condoning violations of the 2014 Guidelines for the Appointment of Judicial Officers in Nigeria, stated that today, “many Chief Judges can quite easily appoint their favoured candidates to High Court positions, and the same thing is seen in appellate court position too.
The Project Director of the civil society group, Deji Ajare, stated this at the public launch of the report titled: ‘Making Judicial Appointments Reform Work: How the National Judicial Council can Improve Implementation of Its Judicial Appointments Guidelines’, which took place in Abuja.
Ajare, who noted that the 2014 guidelines “were intended to help the judiciary put its best foot forward in making judicial appointments,” lamented that the process have become “a different cup of tea.
“Judicial Service Commission (JSC) headed by Chief Judges and other judicial authorities has consistently flouted the guidelines by failing to observe the procedure that promotes accessibility, fairness, merit and transparency of the process, as well as offering a level playing field for all qualified persons. And the NJC has been condoning these violations.”
According to the project director, the NJC’s current level of oversight of the judicial selection process “is too loose and indulgent to make any significant difference in the recruitment process.”
He added: “Anyone may justifiably say that the NJC is literarily giving free pass to JSC to do as they like with judicial appointments.”
Ajare, therefore, urged the leadership of the NJC to show better resolve in preventing the corruption as well as sabotage of the recruitment system.
“The NJC needs to instate new procedures or protocol that ensures greater objectivity, transparency and fairness in selecting candidates for judicial office. Without doing this, Nigeria’s judiciary may only continue to bump along the bottom,” he said.
At the launching of the report, the representative of the Nigerian Bar Association(Unity Bar), Anthony Ojo, raised the alarm over the current trend of appointment of judicial officers along bloodline.
He alleged that today’s appointment of Judges has been turned to family affairs, “where sons and daughters of Judges are the ones now appointed to the bench.”