Judges and lawyers, at the ongoing Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) 2021 Annual Conference, advocated a thorough, rigorous, and unbiased process for the appointment of judicial officers.
Mr. Babatunde Ajibade (SAN), the moderator of a technical session of the conference taking place in Port Harcourt, expressed dissatisfaction at the process of appointing judges in Nigeria.
Ajibade moderated the session on: “Justice Sector Reforms: Oversight Functions of the Bar and Bench”.
He said that there should be no reason the process of being a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) should be more rigorous than the process of becoming a judge.
“The SAN will appear before the judges, and if the process of becoming a judge is lower and the judges are potentially not at par with the SANs, they have difficulty in controlling their courts.
“We can see that there is a problem in the appointment of judicial officers, and the NBA has taken steps to get the Nigeria Judicial Council to allow it to get more involved in the appointment of judges,” he said.
Justice Oludotun Adefope-Okojie of the Court of Appeal blamed NBA for not doing what it ought to do in the process of appointing judges.
“Yes, there is a huge problem associated with the appointment of judges. The problem is: the bar is not doing what it is supposed to do.
“At every level of appointment, the bar is represented,” she said.
The Chief Judge of Ogun, Justice Mosunmola Dipeolu, said that there was always the ‘Nigerian factor of favoring children of highly-placed individuals in the society.
“I do not have that pressure by the grace of God. I try as much as possible to do what is right.
“What I do is to strictly follow the guidelines no matter who made the nomination or who made a recommendation,” she said.
Dipeolu said that the NBA had a huge role to play since it also nominated and recommended candidates, but I am not satisfied with your job.
“Make your stand known, you will be respected for it,” she said.
Dr. Chukwuma Chinwo, a lawyer, advocated the training of prospective judges before their appointment.
Chinwo said that there was a need to change the law curriculum of universities from the fourth year for students to know the career path they would want to follow.
He said that the responsibility of being a judge was very high.
“I commend the Rivers Government for coming up with a judicial institute but it should not be for judges alone to be trained.
“Let those who want to be judges go there, get trained under-seasoned judges, and get the certificate,” he said.
The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Ekiti, Mr. Wale Fapohunda, said that the happiness of judicial officers was important in justice delivery, regretting that their salaries had not been increased over the years.
“I have continuously disagreed with my colleagues that once you sign-on to be a judge, you should be satisfied with the salary you will be paid.
“I feel for the judges who are thinking of their lives after service when in some cases they cannot go home with the cars they are using and even have a home to stay after service,” he said.