Former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, has identified the rising culture of lobbying, favouritism and god-fatherism in the appointment of judicial officers as the greatest threat to the dispensation of credible and unbiased justice in the country.
Speaking when she and former head of state, General Dr. Yakubu Gowon co-chaired a biography presentation of a newly retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi in a book titled, ‘Honey from the Rock’ over the weekend, Mukhtar said those who argue that the practice is normal in the presidential democratic system adopted from the United States of America are wrong.
This, she noted, is because in the US, merit is never set aside considering the fact that the efficiency and intellectual ability of an appointee is always paramount.
The ex-CJN observed that practice should be discouraged, especially with the appointment of judicial officers because it is repugnant to the principles of justice and breeds indiscipline in the judiciary as well.
Mukhtar said, “I shall at this junction revisit the issue of lobbying and in addition favoritism and god-fatherism in the appointment of judicial officers. It is sad that we allow the rising culture of lobbying to influence appointment in the judiciary.
“If we are to revive what held sway in the past- which is maintaining a strong and competent judiciary- then merit should be the watchword. Lobbying, favoritism and godfatherism should be discouraged and discarded, as they lead to the fall in the standard and instead of enhancing the institution, they devalue and weaken it because of incompetence of the personnel.
“These practices negate the principles of justice and breeds indiscipline. I once read in one of our daily newspapers that lobbying is the norm in the USA and since we are the American system of democracy, its adoption here is in order. I disagree because even if they do so, they consider merit first as the efficiency and the intellectual ability of an appointee is always paramount, as far as the judiciary is concerned”.
The former CJN urged the Nigerian authorities not to think only of only what the country desires today, but what we will bequeath to the generation yet unborn, Justice Mukhtar stated.
“I’ve always advised that hard work don’t kill and that only laziness leads to perdition. Justice Ogunbiyi I know for long rose to the Supreme Court bench through dint of hard work. She has not just made the Northeast women proud but the entire Nigeria women”, Justice Mukhtar added.
For his part, Gowon noted that Justice Ogunbiyi who was born on February 27, 1948 has lived an impressive, worthy and exemplary life from childhood till date.
The former head of state recalled that from a village girl in Lassa, Borno State, she attended Government Girls Secondary School, Dalla in Kano state; and then went ahead to read Law in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and then to the Nigerian Law School in Lagos, till she was called to the Bar in 1976.
“It is all this that culminated in her been the first female Justice from the North East Region comprising Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe, Adamawa and Taraba states and the 4th female Justice to be appointed into the Supreme Court Bench”, General Gowon noted.
Kanu Agabi (SAN) and Commissioner for Higher Education, Ahmed Usman Jaha, represented Former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defence, General T.Y. Danjuma and the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, respectively.
General Danjuma who was the chief presenter of the book launched it with N2 million. He noted that it is midnight in the country and only those with impeccable credentials and integrity like Justice Ogunbiyi that can light the room, no matter how dark it is.
“The girl-child should not allow what is happening in the country such as the dastard and forceful adoptions of Chibok and Dapchi girls discourage themselves. There’s still light at the end of the tunnel”, Danjuma said. In his keynote address, Professor Yusuf Turaki, a professor of Theology and social Ethics, said Nigeria is in dire need of strong leader with sense of purpose, courage and all embracing and not biased.
His words: “We live in perilous and fearful times in Borno state where Boko Haram is on the rampage, and herdsmen overwhelming the middle belt by unleashing terror on people in the area.
“The northerners are the ones killing the northerners, causing unnecessary division amongst people in the region. I advise we Nigerians should take a second look at the life of Ogunbiyi, for us to properly navigate and embrace unity in the country’’.