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Dubious Tribunal Verdicts: CJN Faces Judicial Panel over Damaging Petition

Samuel Ogundipe

The palpable suspicion that greeted some tribunal verdicts across the country seems to be getting deeper by the day, as allegations of bias mount against the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

A social group is said to have petitioned the National Judicial Council to look into the methodology employed by the CJN in appointing tribunal judges.

The AUTHORITY reports:

“The CJN is currently investigating the alleged breach of the guidelines in the appointment of judges. You know that the NJC does not appoint judges. The appointment of judges is left to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) and the Heads of Court (Chief Judges).

“The NJC has not made its position known on the petition because it has not sat since the petition got to the CJN.

The last time the Council sat was in May 2015, when it interviewed and screened candidates who had been nominated for the prestigious position of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN),” the source said.

The source, however, confirmed that the petitioners in their letter to the CJN alleged that the Federal High Court management and the FJSC did not advertise the vacancies for the appointment of judges on their websites as well as that of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) as required before going ahead to make the appointments.

Further investigation at the headquarters of the Federal High Court in Abuja showed that the court management had already procured new Prado Toyota Jeeps as utility vehicles for the new judges who have not been confirmed by the NJC.

The cars were parked in the premises of the court. In their petition to the Chief Justice, the group, Access to Justice, urged the NJC to hold that the process leading to the selection and nomination of candidates for the existing vacancies in the Federal High Court contravened the Revised Guidelines and are irredeemably flawed; and to direct that the process should start afresh. Otteh said: “We also urge the NJC to insist that any fresh exercise must adhere with, and be in compliance with the Revised Guidelines 2014.

The Revised Guidelines seek to ensure openness, competitiveness, merit and transparency in the recruitment processes as well as safeguard judicial appointments from being lobbied and politicised.” The group said the current Federal High Court recruitment conflicted with the core goals of the Revised Guidelines. Rule 3 of the Guidelines provides that the Judicial Service Commission ‘shall: call expression of interest by suitable candidates by way of public notice placed on the website of the Judicial Service Commission/Committee concerned, notice boards of the courts and notice boards of Nigeria Bar Association branches.”

The Guidelines further mandate the publication of a public notice of existing judicial vacancies calling for an expression of interest by suitable candidates in at least three publicly accessible fora: the website of the JSC/FJSC, Notice Board of Courts and Notice Board of the NBA branches.

“The word ‘shall’ makes it mandatory that a call/announcement be made, in the stipulated forms, for interested candidates to express interests to fill the vacant positions. “According to Rule 3(3) of the Revised Guidelines, such a call for expression of interest/nomination must bear a closing date. This rule was clearly not followed in the current recruitment process,” the group asserted.

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