The Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has stressed the need for an urgent, honest and frank conversation about judicial reforms especially, the selection and appointment of judges in Nigeria.
He made this known on Saturday 8th August 2020 at the Justice Research Institute (JRI) virtual roundtable themed “Selection and Appointment of Judges: Lessons for Nigeria” under the Law and Policy series of JRI which is an open-access forum that features leading scholars, policy makers amongst other stakeholders.
Contributing on the appointment of Judges in the country, the Vice President said the integrity of the judicial system is crucial to everything in the society hence the need for stakeholders to engage in an honest and frank discussion that examines the challenges and prospects.
According to him, “there are very many aspects of the question that we are faced with today. They are many 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.
“It is central to everything –how our economy works, because our judiciary arbitrates all economic issues, commercial disputes, etc.; 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.
“So, 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.”
In continuation, the Vice President also said “…a frank and honest discussion, at some point, is usually necessary. Where it comes to the administration of justice, that frank and honest discussion must come between the legal profession itself, the judiciary, the executive, the legislature, and the very many elite interests in our society.
“We must come to a point that we must ask ourselves the questions. Why must we appoint an honest umpire? Why do we need honest judges? We must all sit together and ask those questions.
“It is a selfless and patriotic duty that we must, as an elite sit down to talk about and to decide. We must agree to an objective process. To rigorously examine, to test, to interview all of those who come forward to become judges. We must agree to an independent process.”
Reacting to the comparison of the Nigerian system to others that may have been adjudged perfect, Prof. Osinbajo said “there is no system that we are looking at where the people are perfect”, again, underscoring the point for the kind of discussion that “takes into account all of the various issues”.
The Vice President however noted that it will be unfair to conclude that the entire problem rests on bad judges, insisting that “you cannot pick out the judiciary alone for censure for some of the failures in our system of administration of justice” he concluded.
Other speakers at the forum include, the Chief Justice of Ghana, Hon. Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah who was represented by Justice Samuel Marful-Sau; international anti-corruption activist, Prof. Patrick Lumumba; and the Managing Partner, Olaniwun Ajayi LP, Prof. Koyinsola Ajayi, SAN.