The chief justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, yesterday accused some state governors of interfering with and politicising the process of appointing judges in the country.
Justice Onnoghen, who was speaking at the first Biennial Lecture of the Lagos State Judiciary, said some governors usually refuse to approve the names of persons nominated for the bench for National Judicial Council (NJC) scrutiny if the names of their candidates are not included on the list.
The CJN, who was represented at the event by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, also expressed sadness over falling standards at the Bar, noting that there cannot be a strong Bench without a strong Bar since judges are appointed from among lawyers.
Speaking on the theme, “Judicial Standards, integrity, respect and public perception: A Comparative Analysis from Independence in 1960 to the Present Millennium”, he traced the erosion of the independence of the judiciary to military intervention.
Justice Onnoghen admonished judges to refrain from commenting on matters of public interest through social media blogging sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, among others.
The CJN said judges must also ensure the removal of their personal information online, and to desist from uploading pictures of their holiday and personal activities on social media.
According to him, judges “who are desirous of discussing public matters on the social media can only do so without revealing their identity,” adding that the interactive design of the internet blogging sites made it important for judges not to descend into such arena.
Justice Onnoghen also called for a review of the admission criteria for studying Law in the university as well as the criteria for judges’ appointment, saying it should include a post-graduate degree in Law, in addition to 10 years post-call requirement.
Also speaking at the event, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was represented by Special Assistant to the President on Economic Crimes, Mr. Biodun Aikomo, said that in view of the strategic role of judicial officers in the country, it was important for them to always be above board and uphold ethical standards.
“Judges must be beyond reproach; they must be above board; they must abide by the ethics and standards of the profession and dispense justice without sentiment,” he said.
On his part, the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, said the major reforms being implemented in both judiciary and security sectors in the state were targeted at creating a sound pedestal for residents to be productive and in turn boost the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the state.
Governor Ambode also noted that the major reforms in the sectors were already contributing to the growth of the economy, assuring that no effort would be spared in ensuring the success of the various initiatives.
He stated: “I want to say that I am very proud of the judicial sector reforms going on in the state; we are very proud of the work being done by the Chief Judge and the combination of the efforts being carried out by the Attorney General and Chief Judge is something we need to support.
“It is now very obvious that some major reforms are going on in the judicial sector and we are very proud as the executive arm of government to support the judicial sector reforms which we are also complementing with our security sector reforms.
“In totality, the reforms are aimed at improving the economy of Lagos and grow the GDP and what is going on in the judicial sector is significant and we are very proud of it,” the governor said.
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