A document seen by SaharaReporters has exposed how serving and retired Nigerian judges are illegally preparing ways for their children and relatives to take over the country’s judicial system in future.
According to the document put together by Open Bar Initiative, out of the 33 names recently recommended to President Muhammadu Buhari by the National Judiciary Council for appointment as judges in the Federal Capital Territory High Court, only 11 met the criteria set out in the employment guideline of the council.
The NJC had on April 26, 2020 approved the appointment of 33 judges for the FCT High Court.
SaharaReporters gathered that 22 out of the 33 candidates presented to President Buhari made the list only because they were related to serving senior members of the judiciary or close aides and members of the NJC.
Also, states that already have judges in the FCT High Court were reconsidered and given slots while no one was considered qualified for appointment in Ebonyi, a state that has no existing judge.
Section 255 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), pegged qualification for becoming a judge in the High Court of the FCT to a minimum of 10 years qualification as a legal practitioner.
Also Rule 4 of the NJC appointment of judges’ procedure, indicated only four classes of lawyers, who are qualified to apply and be recommended to be appointed as judges of a high court.
These are legal practitioners in private practice, legal practitioners in public service, who are legal officers, chief registrar of a court, and chief magistrates.
Those listed in the document seen by SaharaReporters among the 33 nominees to be considered as judges by President Buhari but, who are not qualified include Njideka K. Nwosu-Iheme, a Grade 1 Magistrate, who is the daughter of Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court and daughter-in-law to Justice Nwosu-Iheme of the Court of Appeal, Agashieze Cyprian Odinaka, a Deputy Director at FCTA whose sister is the Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal in Akure, Ondo State, Fatima Abubakar Aliyu, a judiciary worker, who is the daughter of immediate-past President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Bulkachuwa, Kanyip Rosemary Indinya, a senior magistrate at FCT and wife of the President of the National Industrial Court and sister of a member of the National Judicial Council.
Others are Mimi Anne Katsina Alu-Apena, a senior magistrate and daughter of late Kastina Alu, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Enenche Eleojo, Assistant Director at FCT High Court and Personal Assistant to the Chief Judge, FCT High Court, Madugu Mohammed Alhaji, Josephine Obanor Enobie, Kayode Agunloye, Nwabulu Ngozika Chineze and Abubakar Babashani, who are senior staff of the FCT High Court but have not attained the rank of chief registrar as stipulated by the constitution.
The list also includes one one Aliyu Halilu Ahmed, a Deputy Chief Registrar from Adamawa State judiciary, who has not attained the rank of a chief registrar.
The rest are Aminu Muhammad Abdullahi, Nwecheonwu Chinyere Elewe, Ibrahim Mohammed, Sadia Mu’azu Mayana, Aliyu Yunusa Shafa, Mohammed Zubairu, Binta Dogonyaro, Christopher Opeyemi Oba and Hafsat Lawan Abba-Aliyu, all magistrates from the FCT judiciary, who are not up to the rank of a chief magistrate as stipulated in Rule 4 of the NJC appointment of judges procedure.
SaharaReporters also gathered that one Olufola Olufolashade Oshin did not participate in the processes leading up to selection, interview or obtaining recommendation from a Chief Judge of a state but her name was inserted into the final list transmitted to President Buhari at the instigation of some senior judicial officers believed to be top members of the Supreme Court.
Reacting to the development, Open Bar Initiative said, “The suggestion that judicial service in Nigeria is an inheritance transmitted from parents to children is not supported by the constitution or any other instrument under Nigerian law.
“This is an abuse of the constitution by those who must nominate judges for appointment.”
Co-convener of Open Bar Initiative and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission in Nigeria, Prof Chidi Odinkalu, while reacting to the situation, said, “These are not just unqualified nominees, they are bad nominees because only bad people will want to become judges through smuggling. They will make bad judges, we should resist them and their sponsors.”
Voicing his displeasure on Twitter, a user with the handle @AbdulMahmud01, said, “Have you seen the list of newly appointed FCT judges approved by NJC? It is a parade of children of former CJN, retired Supreme Court justices and judges. NJC is simply put: a corrupt council of corrupt interests.”
Another user, @KennyAdazie, while sharing her thoughts on the issue, said, “The only people that can take back Nigeria are the youth.
“If we don’t come out to stop this madness, the charade will continue. When they strategically place their own, they pave way for #impunities and come 2023, there is nothing you can do! The reason our legal system is in ruins.”