How to Get Judicial Appointments Right, by Sagay, Falana, Others

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How to Get Judicial Appointments Right, by Sagay, Falana, Others

To achieve an effective justice system, careful attention must be paid to how judges are appointed, an eminent professor of law, Itse Sagay (SAN), said yesterday.

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He believes the judiciary can return to its golden era if the highest levels of integrity, independence and sense of responsibility are restored.

He said: “It is clear that countries like Nigeria need a more complex system of appointment in which several institutions are involved to check each other.

“To avoid the practice of gross lobbying and nepotism that presently undermine the appointment of judges, there is need to seek the opinions of the local Bar and colleagues regarding the fitness of prospective appointees for the office before forwarding their names to the National Judicial Council (NJC).”

Sagay spoke at a Roundtable on jurisprudence and philosophy of judgments in the Nigerian legal system, organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC.

The PACAC chairman said Nigeria must devise a system of judges appointment that promotes confidence in their quality, adding that elevation should be merit-based rather than “a combination of routine and turn by turn”.

Sagay said it used to be unheard-of for judges to be associated with corruption, which is no longer the case.

“We must, therefore, encourage our judges to return to the pristine age when their chambers and courts were hallowed placed where even the angels feared to tread; the era when judges spoke and it was done because they were an embodiment of high moral authority and they provided justice to all men in all matters.”

Activist-lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) was of the view that the Bar must do more in disciplining lawyers.

He said “If the judiciary is bad, then the lawyers who go to the Bench are bad or worse.

“Petitions are taken seriously by the NJC, but that is not so with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).

“Any lawyer in Nigeria can do what he or she likes and get away with it. Unless we are prepared to reform the NBA, in terms of disciplining members, we’re not going to get it right.”

Dr. Babatunde Ajibade (SAN), who moderated the virtual event, said the justice sector must carry out “significant introspection”.

“We must put in place a system where merit and identifiable criteria play the predominant role in judicial appointments,” he said.

The lead speaker, Yemi Candide-Johnson (SAN), believes judges must be held accountable for the public trust they hold.

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