…Appointment should be on merit, not promotion, says Justice Aboki (retd)
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BoSAN), on Thursday, told the National Judicial Council (NJC), to challenge the current policy of appointing Justices of Court of Appeal and Supreme Court to allow for more competent hands on both courts.
“Do away with the current replacement policy on appointment of Justices both in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court that are not on merit,” BoSAN appealed to NJC, the body responsible for the appointment of judicial officers.
The body, in its speech delivered at a Valedictory Court Service for Retired Justice Abdu Aboki, who retired on the attainment of the mandatory age of 70 years, last month, equally urged the NJC to jettison the system whereby Justices of the Supreme Court must be promoted from the Court of Appeal.
BoSAN, in the speech delivered by Chief Onomigbo Okpoko, SAN, argued that the system is responsible for the level of mediocrity and incompetence in the judiciary.
“The Body of Senior Advocates takes the firm view that the selection and appointment of Justices for appointment to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal on the basis of replacement is one that cannot result in the appointment of the best Lawyers into the appellate Courts in the country,” he said.
While stressing that the agitation of the BoSAN in this respect, will not go away any time soon, Okpoko said, “Our submission to the appointing authorities is that the policy of replacement of the retiring Justices from their place of origin is not sound and should be discarded.
“The National Judicial Council as the appointing authority should address this issue and appoint the best candidates of our country to man our courts. Afterall, Justice is blind and so does not look at or see the faces of litigants. Justice knows no tribe and has no colour or religion. it has no specified location because it is everywhere. Let no one put on the Nigerian Judiciary the iron clad case of restricting the appointment of our Justices in the manner complained of,” he added.
BoSAN, also urged the NJC to expand the appointment to include the bar and academia, as there are well qualified persons in that area.
Okpoko, while stressing that constitutional way of becoming a Justice of the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court is by way of appointment and not promotion, listed former Justices of the apex court, who did exceptionally well but were not initially judges.
“I met Justice Ephraime Akpata as a Chief Magistrate in Warri and have the fortune of appearing for the accused person in the last case Justice Akpata conducted as a Magistrate. You and I know that Justice Akpata made it to this Appeal Court from which he honourably retired. The issue of correct appointment of Judges is crucial,” BoSAN emphasised.
Meanwhile, in his remarks, Justice Aboki now retired, thanked God Almighty and all those who made his sojourn in the judiciary worthwhile.
He urged “the Federal Judicial Service Commission and National Judicial Council to place greater premium on merit than National Character and other primordial considerations in the appointment of Justices.”
While he called on the executive arm of government to urgently review the remuneration of judicial officers, Aboki called on the National Assembly to re-enact laws that would reduce the number of cases that gets to the apex court.
According to the retired judge, “only appeals relating to presidential election should come to the Supreme Court. Others should end at the Court of Appeal. This call is of utmost importance, in order to lessen the heavy burden of the Justices of the Court.
Justice Aboki also suggested to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, to review the requirements for the conferment of the rank of SAN, explaining that the requirements are responsible for many frivolous, vexatious and needless appeals filed by lawyers desirous of the prestigious position.
Earlier, in his speech the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, had eulogised Justice Aboki, describing him as a specimen of doggedness, integrity and humility.
“We admire him passionately within our fold, and I can assure you that so many people are queuing up to follow his footsteps in the outer world where his lordship is now going in a blaze of glory with impenetrable judicial sagacity.”
He said Justice Aboki made a remarkable imprint in his career and also in the development of his fatherland and the generality of humanity.
“He is an enigmatic personality whose name has become a recurring decimal in the annals of the Nigerian judiciary, ostensibly for his robust scholarly disposition and alluring erudition,” the CJN stated.