A recent NOTICE dated 31st October 2018 by the President National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NIC), on the appointment of 20 additional judges for that Court does not meet transparency threshold and the Freedom of Information Act. It actually offends the NJC Rules.
The Notice advertises that the Chief Justice of Nigeria “has GRACIOUSLY given His approval for the commencement of the process that will lead to the appointment of twenty (20) additional judges for the National Industrial Court of Nigeria” and goes on to state that:
“All interested persons are advised to act accordingly”.
What does the “Notice” require interested candidates to do? “Act accordingly” How?
One of the strongest challenges to the independence of the Judiciary in Nigeria is the appointment and process of appointment of judges.
The National Judicial Council (NJC)’s Procedural Rules requires that:
(i) There shall be “call of expression of interest by suitable candidates by way of public notice placed on the website of the Judicial Service Commission/Committee concerned, notice boards of the courts and notice boards of Nigerian Bar Association Branches.”
(ii) The Judicial Service Commission/Committee shall specify the closing date for the receipt of applications and /or nominations in the call of expression of interest….”
There is no Notice relating to the appointment of additional judges of NIC on the website of the National Judicial Service Commission or on any NBA website. The NIC Notice does not have a deadline for expression of interest. It does not state qualifications. It does not direct any interested person on what to do whatsoever. By the way, the Notice to be issued is not the responsibility of the head of Court. It is the Judicial Service Commission that ought to issue the Notice under the NJC Rules.
Contrast this NIC Notice with a similar Notice dated 7th November 2018 on the appointment of additional judges for Abia State Judiciary. The Abia example titles its Notice “Call for expression of interest for appointment as judges of the High Court of Abia State”. The Abia Notice is issued by the State Judicial Service Commission. It is signed by the Secretary of the Commission. It also states these details:
a) Requirements/competencies required of the candidates;
b) What form the expression of interest should take;
c) A closing date; and
d) Documents to accompany the indication of interest
In the case of NIC, the National Judicial Service Commission should do the right thing. Let us have our judges appointed in an open and transparent process.
Prof Ernest Ojukwu, SAN.