Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says the appointment of judges in Nigeria is influenced by the elite.
During a webinar tagged, ‘Selection and appointment of judges: Lessons for Nigeria’, which was organised by Justice Research Institute (JRI) on Saturday, Osinbajo said Nigeria’s justice administration “is under severe pressure from the elite who want to get ahead at all cost”.
“We have an elite and when I speak of elite, I speak of the Nigerian elite 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.
“The Nigerian elite want to be sure of all the outcomes and they want all the outcomes to favour them. That is the same pressure that we have with respect to the federal 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. This is the problem that we have.
“And I want to say that this is a natural human feeling. Most people in the world would rather have a situation where everything worked in their favour.
The vice-president said every nation makes up its mind at some point to create the best environment and circumstances it needs to succeed.
He said there must be a honest conversation among the legal profession, the judiciary, the executive, the legislature and the elite on why it is important to appoint the best judicial officers.
“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,” Osinbajo said.
“We must agree to an objective process to rigorously examine, test and interview all of those who want to come forward as judges.”
He also said it is important to pay attention to the welfare of judges by providing adequate remuneration in order to shield them from corruption.
Amina Augie, a justice of the supreme court, also decried the process of lobbying in the appointment of judicial officers.
She said: “There are people who are passionate who can do the job but they are sidetracked by that pressure of people who know people that have gotten there.”
She recommended that justices should be elected or elevated not just based on the quantity of their output but on the quality of their work as well as their personal character.