ABUJA, Nigeria – Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo has advocated an independent process in the appointment of judges.
He said this was crucial to judicial reforms, given the significant roles they play in the polity, economy, social justice and democracy.
Osinbajo spoke on Saturday at the Justice Research Institute (JRI) virtual roundtable themed “Selection and Appointment of Judges: Lessons for Nigeria”.
Dame Anne Rafferty, QC, Chair of the Judicial College, Royal Courts of Justice in England & Wales; Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad; Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; and House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, attended and contributed.
Osinbajo stated that the integrity of the judicial system was crucial to everything in the society.
He harped on the need for stakeholders to engage in an honest and frank discussion that examines the challenges and prospects.
The VP said there were “different contours to this issue. But one thing that stands out and we need to focus our minds on is about the question of the integrity of the judicial system.”
Osinbajo noted that the judiciary arbitrates all economic issues, commercial disputes, among others.
“It is central to social justice; to the maintenance of the rights of citizens; central to democracy as we see it today. The court decides who was properly elected and who was not,” he said.
He added that the question of those who make those decisions, how they are appointed, who they are, is absolutely important.
“If people feel that justice is impossible, they will lose hope in the system and may resort to self-help,” he noted.
On the administration of justice, the VP called for talks “between the legal profession itself, the judiciary, the executive, the legislature, and the very many elite interests in our society.”
He charged Nigerians to collectively ask important questions including: “Why must we appoint an honest umpire? Why do we need honest judges? We must all sit together and ask those questions.”
Osinbajo said stakeholders must agree to: an objective process; rigorous examination; interview all of those who come forward to become judges.
On the comparison of the Nigerian system to others, he observed that “there is no system that we are looking at where the people are perfect.”
The VP, however, noted that it will be unfair to conclude that the entire problem rests on bad judges.
“You cannot pick out the judiciary alone for censure for some of the failures in our system of administration of justice”, he insisted.