THE AGE OF JUDICIAL OFFICERS.
Few weeks ago, the former CJN had presented to the Senate no less than 52 amendments to the 1999 Constitution, capable of strengthening the judiciary and meant to reduce the seemingly intractable delays in determining cases.
The proposed amendments, tagged ‘Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (5th Alteration) Bill, 2012’, if approved, will affect the qualification for the appointment of judges.
Part of the proposed amendments included, that the appointment of a justice to the Supreme Court be raised from 15 years post- call experience to 25 years.
In the bill, it is being proposed that to qualify for appointment as a justice of the Court of Appeal, a legal practitioner must have been qualified to practice law for 20 years. Under the present dispensation, a 12- year post- call experience suffices. Similarly, the provision for appointment as a judge of a high court is being raised to 15 years post-call from the present 10 years. The ace Jurist also suggested that the number of justices of the Supreme Court be reduced to 16 as against the present 21.
The question now is this,how pertinent is the increase in the age of our judicial officers going to be helpful in quick and effective dispensation of justice?
However it quiet understandable that for anyone to be elevated to the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court, such person must be subjected to public scrutiny as it is being done in the USA.
This would enable members of the public to dig into the past of such person, his probity, character, business and political interest, temperament, immediate family lifestyles, among others.
In my humble opinion,the CJN should not be the Chairman of NJC, the position should be occupied by a retired appellate court justice or a lawyer of impeccable character of at least 25 years post -call to be nominated by the President on the recommendation of the NBA and subject to confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Any justice of the Court of Appeal who had about 15 years post- call is more than enough for anybody who really want to mature. I believe maturity is very important and that the amendment being sought is to ensure that not only brilliant people are appointed, but those that are matured.’
I believe that there is more to adjudication than book knowledge,it require some level of maturity.
No doubt the proposed amendment is a welcome development.
The important thing to me is the foundation of appointing a judge. If, from the onset, appointment of judges to the court of records is based on merit, it does not really matter whether they have 25 or 50 years of practice.
One of the things that really matter is the integrity of the person to be appointed to the Bench. What is important is whether the person is hard-working, committed and experienced to do the job.
Appointment to the Bench required people who are diligent and not people who lobby to be appointed.
I think what they should do is to ensure that a person appointed as high court judge should spend at least five years before he can move up to the Court of Appeal, because, there may be a situation when someone is appointed to the high court today and the following year, he is elevated to the Appeal Court.
Conclusively,I must confess that age ought not to have anything to do with competence. It is either you’re competent or you are not competent.