A probe of judges involved in some recent conflicting judgments in the country has begun, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, disclosed yesterday.
Justice Mohammed, who spoke at a special session to mark the commencement of the 2016-2017 legal year and the swearing-in of new Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), said the affected judges were being investigated by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Responding to criticisms from various bodies on the issue, the CJN said that appropriate actions would be taken against the judges by the NJC at the end of the probe.
Most of the conflicting judgments, said to have exposed the country’s judiciary to ridicule, emanated from suits instituted by the two factions of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a bid to resolve their political differences on the party’s national leadership.
The CJN who is due for retirement from the Bench in November added that the Constitution is clear as to the procedure that must be followed in appointing a Justice of the Supreme Court or a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria and such must be adhered to in appointing the next chief justice after his tenure.
“Given that this is my last Legal Year, I must use this medium to address speculations that have arisen as regards the appointment of persons to the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“Permit me to restate that Section 231 of the Constitution is clear as to the procedure that must be followed in appointing a Justice of the Supreme Court or indeed a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria. The National Judicial Council recommends and the Senate confirms such appointments.
“While I would admit that there is no constitutional restriction as to where those to be appointed are selected from, the long-held practice, which I daresay had been apolitical, transparent and fair, had been to appoint the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court to the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“The idea that we can appoint a legal practitioner without the proven experience or the character developed through years of active participation in adjudication, may indeed be fraught with risk, none greater than the risk of creating another sinecure for party loyalists or reducing the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria to one which can be lobbied for.”
While congratulating the newly appointed senior advocates, the chief justice urged them to strive to uphold the trust that the society reposes in them even as the new status has imposed moral obligations and professional duties on them.
“I, therefore, advise you to imbibe the highest tenets of integrity and humility that are befitting of your status. You must ensure that your reputation is carefully defended and protected, remembering that your privileges are ones of humility and service.”
He lamented that while the judiciary has worked to sanitise the system, some senior lawyers have resorted to conducting a crime drama in order to gather the number of cases to meet the requirements needed to be considered for conferment.
“Our noble profession should not be populated by fraudsters, cheats and liars or by persons who believe in the maxim that ‘the end justifies the means.’”
The status of Senior Advocate of Nigeria was conferred on 22 lawyers three out of who were women.
The President, Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Mahmoud, called for further reform of the judiciary, particularly the membership of the Legal Practitioners Privilege Committee (LPPC).
He also expressed the need to interrogate the architecture of the regulatory bodies in order to strengthen the Bar association and law societies.