The Nigerian Bar Association has called for the cancellation of the appointment process of five High Court judges for Delta State, The PUNCH has learnt.
The appointment process was condemned by both the Warri branch and the national leadership of the NBA, alleging that it was characterised by violation of the National Judicial Council’s guidelines for the appointment of judges.
They described as “a sham” the screening of applicants by the state Judicial Service Committee.
The state Judicial Service Committee is chaired by Chief Judge of Delta State, Justice Marshal Umukoro, with the President of the Customary Court of Appeal in the state, Justice S.O.N. Oghene, the Vice-Chairman.
By law, the JSC conducts the preliminary stage of the appointment process before the list of shortlisted candidates is sent the NJC for the final selection process.
The NBA alleged that the process through which the names of the five shortlisted candidates, along with the names of five potential substitutes, emerged from was flawed and lacking in transparency.
The association said list allegedly included the names of blood relations of both Umukoro and Oghene.
The PUNCH on Monday obtained copies of the petitions sent by the Warri branch of the NBA to both the state JSC and the NJC, calling for the cancellation of the process.
The Warri branch of the NBA, through one of the petitions signed by its Chairman, Michael Asugo, and the Secretary, John Aruoture, and sent to the Chairman of the NJC, who doubles as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, called on the NJC “to suspend the process of appointment of judges in Delta State and cause an investigation to be carried out to confirm if the clear procedure for appointment as contained in the NJC guidelines were adhered to”.
The branch said in its petition dated and received by the CJN on September 17, “It is very clear that the exercise which threw up these names cannot be said to be transparent and based on merit.
“In our candid view, it is riddled with favouritism and nepotism and this is not acceptable to the branch.
“We know that the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the JSC did not step down from the committee in order to present a semblance of fairness and transparency.
“They rather presided over all meetings of the JSC where all the decisions concerning the appointment of these persons as judges were taken which is a clear conflict of interests.”
The national leadership of the NBA, through its National Publicity Secretary, Kunle Edun, demanded adherence to the NJC’s outlined procedure for the appointment of judges.
Edun said, “A competent, courageous and fearless judiciary is very important for Nigeria to attain its developmental goals.
“This will require that the recruitment process into the judiciary should be open and transparent with a view to ensuring that we get the best hands devoid of political colorations.
“The NBA demands that the procedures set out by the NJC regarding the procedure for recruiting judicial officers be adhered to.”
The Chairman of the NBA branch in Warri, Asugo, on Monday restated his branch’s position contained in its petitions.
He said the body was out to stop the practice of appointing judges because they were related to top judicial officers in the state..