Judicial Reform: Committee Submits Report As 3 Members Withhold Assent

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ABUJA, December 15, (THEWILL) – The committee set up by the Chief Justice of the Federation to brainstorm and recommend reforms for the judiciary Thursday submitted its report with three members withholding their signatures due to disagreements on some of the recommendations reached by the committee.

The 29-member committee was chaired by Justice Muhammdu Lawal Uwais, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).

Recall that the committee was inaugurated on October 14, 2011, with eminent jurists and legal practitioners with a charge to examine the entire judiciary and its processes and make recommendations on improving the 3rd arm of government.

Those who withheld their assent are the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Joseph Daudu, SAN and two former Presidents of the association, Chief Olisa Agbakoba, SAN and Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN.

THEWILL gathered from a source that preferred to remain anonymous that three main issues split members of the committee -- the retention of the CJN as the chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC); allowing the general public make input in the appointment of judges and lastly, what to do with judges who have consistently maintained a below average performance.

The conservatives in the committee made up of retired respected jurists leaned towards maintaining the status quo which would see the CJN naturally head the NJC and keeping the public out of the process of appointment of judges. They also did not favour sacking judges with consistent below average performance.

The former justices in the committee include: Justice S.M.A. Belgore, GCON (a former CJN), Justice Idris L. Kutigi, GCON, (former CJN), Justice A.I. Katsina-Alu, GCON (former CJN), Justice Mamman Nasir, GCON, (former President, Court of Appeal), Justice A.G. Karibi-Whyte, CON (Retired Justice of the Supreme Court), Justice M.M.A. Akanbi, CFR, (former President, Court of Appeal), Justice Umaru Abdullahi, CON,(former President, Court of Appeal), Justice Kayode Eso, CON, (Retired Justice of the Supreme Court), Justice Umaru A. Kalgo, CON, (Retired Justice of the Supreme Court & Chairman, of the Law Reform Commission of Nigeria), Justice R.N. Ukeje, OFR (former Chief Judge, Federal High Court), Justice R.P.I. Bozimo, OFR, (former Chief Judge, Delta State), and Justice Lawal Hassan Gummi, OFR.

During the presentation of the report, Justice Uwais acknowledged that that Daudu, Agbakoba, and Akeredolu did not sign the report. He said Agbakoba had sent word that he was going abroad hence his inability to sign, but wondered why Daudu and Akeredolu refused to sign.

“I don’t know why they refused to sign because when we were in the committee they never indicated whether they agreed or disagreed with the report or not,” Uwais said.

The chairman however said the committee made far reaching recommendations adding that some of them would require constitutional and legislative amendments, while others could be implemented administratively.

“The committee is confident that the acceptance and implementation of the recommendation it has made will significantly restore the judiciary to its lost glory and pride of place,” he added.

In his thank you remark, the CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdapher said he would study the recommendations and do all within his powers to implement the recommendations of the committee in order to “rekindle public trust in the judiciary.”

Other members of the committee are Chief Richard O.Akinjide, CON, SAN (former Attorney-General of the Federation), Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim, CON, SAN, (former Attorney-General of the Federation), Dr. A.G.F. AbdulRazak, SAN, Chief Anthony O. Mogboh, SAN, Mr. T.J.O. Okpoko, SAN, (former President, NBA), Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, (former President, NBA), Mr. O.C.J. Okocha, MFR, SAN, (former President, NBA), Prince Lanke Odogiyan, Esq. (Former President, NBA), Hajiya Hairat Balogun, Prof. Epiphany Azinge, SAN, (Director-General, NIALS), Dr. Mamman Tahir (Director-General, Nigerian Law School) and A.B. Mahmud, SAN.