The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olumide Akpata has said that the statements attributed to him expressing concern over the competence of some of the candidates screened by the NJC’s for appointment as Justices of the Court of Appeal were quoted out of context.
Mr. Akpata who spoke while delivering an address during the valedictory court session in honour of retiring Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour JSC said his speech was mispresented by one of the members of NBA-NEC who rushed to online blogs to published “his own version of that statement and in the process quoted me, not necessarily incorrectly, but definitely out of context”
Recall that the legal space was recently awash by news of how the President of the NBA had indicted the apex policy making body in the legal profession over the screening of candidates for appointment as Court of Appeal Justices. The statement attributed to Mr. Akpata stated:
“What I saw and experienced at the NJC meeting on the appointment of judges to the Court of Appeal left me aghast. At a point, I, as a “Johnny Just Come’ (new attendee), had to ask, ‘Are these people really going to the Court of Appeal?’ Important legal issues that were occasionally put to the nominees could not be answered. The whole proceedings appeared more of an old school boys meeting. When I wondered at this, I heard things like, ‘They will learn on the job.’ We were to interview 20 nominees at a point but only 2 hours was allocated for this important exercise. That meant six minutes only for each nominee. What is this? Let me assure you that the NBA will never be a rubber stamp participant at such bodies. You can quote me.”
Akpata has now set the records straight by stating that the above statement formed part of his report to the NBA-NEC, a body to which, as President of the NBA he is accountable to.
In his words:
“Let me use this opportunity to touch on certain statements attributed to me that have unfortunately found its way into the social media space and become subject of public discourse.”
“On March 18, 2021, as the President of the NBA, I chaired a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) of the NBA held in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State Capital. At that meeting, as is customary, I reported my overall activities including my participation at the last NJC interview meeting (of the recently appointed Justices of the Court of Appeal).”
“I informed the meeting that during this exercise I expressed concerns about the competence of some of the candidates that were interviewed and the process that led to the recommendation of twenty (20) candidates to the NJC for appointment as Justices of the Court of Appeal.”
“I further informed the meeting that on March 10, 2021, I wrote a letter to My Lord the Chief Justice of Nigeria, in his capacity as Chairman of the NJC, expressing these concerns. The NBA remains grateful to My Lord the Chief Justice of Nigeria and indeed to the NJC that sequel to that letter, two of the candidates nominated for appointment as Justices of the Court of Appeal were later dropped. I remain optimistic that in addition to the foregoing the NJC will undertake a holistic review of the process of appointing Judges/Justices of our superior courts”
“As I mentioned earlier, the foregoing formed part of my report to the NBA-NEC, a body to which, as President of the NBA I am accountable. Unfortunately, one of the members of NBA-NEC rushed to the online blogs and published his own version of that statement and in the process quoted me, not necessarily incorrectly, but definitely out of context. My Lord, this action by a member of NBA-NEC who was entitled to be in attendance at the meeting is one that I have no control over.”
“My Lords, the relationship that exists between the Bar and the Bench is one that must be continually nurtured and sustained and My Lords can be rest assured that this is what the NBA yearns and stands for.”
“My Lords will however agree with me that the Judiciary needs more and more (and not less) of stellar individuals like My Lord, Honourable Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour in this Court and in the Courts below and if this is to be achieved, appointments on merit must trump any other consideration.”
“On behalf of the NBA, I want to re-assure My Lords of our commitment to providing any level of support to enrich the quality of the Bench. This is our constituency and we will stop at nothing to protect it.”