Judicial Reform: NBA seeks removal of CJN as head of NJC

Friday Ajagunna
Friday Ajagunna
Olukayode Ariwoola

The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has faulted the composition of the National Judicial Council, NJC, which is the body responsible for disciplining erring judicial officers in the country.

NBA, which is the umbrella body of legal practitioners in the country, faulted the current system that made it mandatory that the Council be headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN.

According to the NBA, “the inherent flaws in the composition of the NJC impact negatively on its ability to prosecute judicial misconduct in a manner that inspires public confidence.

Consequently, the NBA recommended that “members of the NJC should be appointed as follows: six judicial officers appointed by the CJN; six lawyers nominated by the National Executive Council of the NBA, including the NBA President; and six non lawyers appointed by the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, subject to the approval of the Senate.

“The chairmanship of these bodies should be rotated between the heads of the three constituent groups.”

Besides, the NBA recommended the appointment of court administrators to take over the administrative functions of the various heads of court, such as procurement, budgeting, renovation of courts, and implementation of judicial appropriations.

“These are activities within court administration that have severally been identified by the anti-corruption bodies as areas prone to corrupt activities.

“This proposal for the creation of this office takes cognizance of the role of the Chief Registrars of Courts, who, under the proposed arrangements, will, together with heads of courts) concentrate solely on the business of adjudication, especially case management, without distraction.”

It further demanded the de-linking of judicial remuneration from that of the civil service, noting that there had always been an informal linkage between judicial salaries and that of senior civil servants and public officers.

“There is a need to de-link judicial remuneration from that of the civil/public service. De-linking judicial remuneration from that of the civil/public service would not only strengthen the perception of judicial independence, but would also provide the necessary safeguard and reassurance to judicial officers,” it added.

The recommendations were contained in proposals the NBA submitted at the just concluded national summit on justice sector reforms.

Meanwhile, reading the communiqué to newsmen on Friday, Chairman of the Joint Planning Committee of the summit, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, SAN, said proposals for reform that were made by the NBA were considered and approved in modified form.

He said: “The general consensus reached by this panel was that the role of the NJC in discharging its responsibility for judicial appointments into the Superior Court of record required significant review.

“There was a concern expressed about the fact that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, who is the chairman of the NJC, is also the chairman of the Federal Judicial Service Commission, which is the body that initially reviews proposals or lists of candidates by appointment into judicial office.

“The members pointed out the seeming inconsistency between the chief justice of Nigeria playing both those roles, as it would appear that he was then recommending candidates to himself being chairman of both bodies, and being the person who appoints a significant number of the members of both bodies other than those who are statutory members.

“There was a general consensus that there was a need to reconstitute or propose the reconstitution of these bodies, both the National Judicial Council and the Federal Judicial Service Commission,” Ajibade, SAN, added.

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