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The Nigerian Bar Association on Thursday in Abuja called for the removal of the federal character principle in the appointment of judges to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Speaking at the valedictory session in honour of Justice James Ogebe, who just retired from the apex court, NBA's First National Vice-President, Mr. Ikeazor Akariwe, said that strict adherence to the federal character principle had robbed the bench of the brightest judicial minds.

Akaraiwe noted that It took a vacancy to arise in North-Central, which Ogebe belonged to, for him to be elevated after 30 years as a judge, more than half of which was spent at the Court of Appeal.

He said, 'It is hereby recommended that the federal character principle should be respected in the Supreme Court to the extent that at least one justice each must come from each geographical zone.

'Having fulfilled that requirement, other justices of the Supreme Court Bench should be appointed strictly on merit from the Bench, Bar and academia.'

The association also condemned the practice of appointing only high court judges to the Court of Appeal.

He said, 'It is the view of the NBA that the best personnel for appointment to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court should not be limited to the judicial personnel of the High Courts and Court of Appeal respectively.

'It must be broad-based enough to include the bench generally, the universities, the inner and outer bar. The bench and the country stand to reap tremendous benefits from such an exercise.'

Also speaking at the session, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, (SAN), called for an upward review of the mandatory retirement age of Supreme Court justices from the present 70 years to 75 years.

He, however, said that in doing so, the justices would be given the liberty to enjoy a regime where the 'said 70 years should be an optional retirement age.'

The AGF said, 'I am certain that if we can adopt such a regime, we will get the most out of our judges at appellate level due to the fearlessness, candour and courage which comes with old age and which are the attributes that our judiciary needs to constantly exhibit.'