Appeal Court Screening: Scandal Rocks NJC, As Akpata Writes CJN

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National Judicial Council

The last may not have been heard on the scandal rocking the screening of candidates for appointment to Nigeria’s Court of Appeal, as it has emerged that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata wrote to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad on his reservations.

This is coming on the heels of a press statement by the under-fire National Judicial Council (NJC) recommending the appointment of 18 Justices of Court of Appeal and 8 heads of court following its 94th Meeting held on 17 to 18 March, 2021. The Council also constituted a committee to investigate a judge and issued warning letters to some judges.

A source who is familiar with the controversy told CITY LAWYER that Akpata had written to Justice Muhammad, who also doubles as the NJC Chairman, intimating him of his strong reservations on the screening process, adding that the NBA President was scandalized by the shoddy manner the screening was conducted.

In a searing and unprecedented indictment of the apex policy making body in the legal profession, Akpata had lampooned the screening of the jurists, reportedly saying: “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.”

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There are strong indications that Akpata’s comments may have drawn the ire of many jurists especially the conservative bloc in the legal profession. CITY LAWYER gathered from an impeccable source that pressures are being mounted on the NBA President to recant or engage in some damage control, given the backlash generated by the comments.

The NJC has not responded to the damning indictment at press time.

City Lawyer

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