Resist Pressure by Edo State Govt to Appoint Loyalists as Judges, NBA tells NJC

…Accuses Edo CJ of attempt to supplant nominees with cronies

The Nigerian Bar Association, Benin Branch, has appealed to the National Judicial Council (NJC) to resist plots by the Edo State government to influence the appointment of its preferred candidates into the state’s judiciary.

In a unanimous resolution passed by the Benin NBA after its general meeting recently, the association said there were indications that the current Chief Judge of Edo State, Justice Esther A. Edigin, whom they alleged is an ally of the Executive arm in the state, to jettison a pending list of nominees for appointment as High Court judges for the state.

According to the NBA, in September 2018, the process for the appointment of five judges in the Edo State judiciary was commenced by the state’s former CJ, Justice Esohe Frances Ikponwen, who invited the National Judicial Institute, an arm of the NJC to conduct aptitude test for applicants for the vacancies.

Subsequently, five nominees were shortlisted as the overall best from the pool of applicants who participated in the examination, which the NBA said was geared towards ensuring that the most suitably qualified persons were appointed for the onerous responsibility of justice dispensation in the state.

“There are indications that the present Chief Judge of Edo State, Hon. Justice Esther A. Edigin who is an ally of the Executive, and who also supported the Executive in compromising the independence of the judiciary in this matter (before she became the Chief Judge), is planning to abandon the April 2019 list pending before the NJC and commence a fresh process of selection that will suit the Executive.

“The NJC has dealt with appointment concerning other states including those that submitted their lists several months after Edo State had submitted its own. But have failed to deal with the Edo State list of nominee Judges,” the NBA noted.

The association further said the undue influence of the executive arm of government in the appointment of judicial officers breeds corruption.

“In furtherance of this retrogressive act, the Deputy Governor of Edo State who was the Acting Governor then because the Governor was on vacation approached the then Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Esohe Frances Ikponwen and requested that some of their preferred candidates be used to replace the list already submitted to the NJC. The then Hon. Chief Judge vehemently refused to yield to this request as that will compromise the whole exercise. A request she considered an Executive Interference and a compromise of the Independence of the Judiciary.”

“This is how corruption is institutionalized and established in the judiciary. It begins with the process of appointment, because those who ordinarily lack the capacity and integrity to be judges are appointed and influenced when they are handpicked, usually doing the biding of those that helped them.”

It lamented that the Edo State judiciary had been battling with the problem of “poor quality of judgement”, hence the need to recruit judicial officers based on merit, and not political consideration.

Consequently, the NBA advised the NJC to redeem its image in the matter by fast-tracking the process of appointing the shortlisted five nominees who have already been cleared by security agencies, urging the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Tanko Ibrahim “to ensure that no other fresh process is commenced in Edo State until the April 2019 list is treated.”

Culled from Law&Society

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