Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has faulted the process of appointing judges, saying that the habit of Nigerian elites influencing the appointment of judges is unacceptable and a clog in the wheel of justice system.
He however advocated an independent process in the appointment of judges, as according to him this was crucial for the ongoing 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”.
He said that a situation whereby the elites and senior citizens resort to influencing appointments of Judges to gain favour undermine the judicial system warning that “if we leave it to the system that is going on at the moment; we are clearly headed in the wrong direction because interest whether private, political or group influences how judges are appointed.”
Speaking further, the Osinbajo noted that there are “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.”
The fact that the judiciary arbitrates all economic issues, commercial disputes, among others, demand a high level of integrity, he added.
“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.
“Given the important roles they play, the question of those who make those decisions, how they are appointed, who they are, is absolutely important”
“We have elites and when I speak of elites, I speak of the Nigerian elites both political, religious, commercial/business etc. Everyone wants to get ahead, we want to own things, we want to control things and we want to own the judges too,” he said.
Osinbajo harped on the need to allow an honest and transparent process in appointing Judges.
On the issue of federal character, Osinbajo stated that it should not be about the personal interests of the few but based on competence and character.
“So the federal character is no longer necessarily seen as choosing the best from a particular zone or a particular state; it is the interest in that state or that zone who want to further their own purposes that would want to come together to ensure that the person who is appointed is not necessarily the best, but he is the one that is most suited to their own purposes.”