By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BoSAN) on Thursday in Abuja kicked against the appointment policy of justices to Supreme Court on the ground that the policy is unmeritorious.
The senior lawyers told the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body responsible for the appointment of judicial officers in the country to do away with the current replacement policy for the Nigerian Judiciary to grow alongside the rule of law and dispensation of justice.
In their strongly worded speech delivered at a valedictory court service for retired Justice Abdu Aboki of the Supreme Court, the senior lawyers asked the NJC to also 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 the 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 emphasized.
Meanwhile, in his remarks, Justice Aboki now retired, thanked God Almighty and all those who made his sojourn in the judiciary worthwhile.
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 Justice, “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 rank.
The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola thanked retired Justice Aboki for putting his wide knowledge of law at the disposal of Nigeria to widen dispensation of justice and entrenchment of the rule of law.
Justice Ariwoola urged him not to hesitate to come to the aid of the country whenever his contributions are needed.