JUDICIAL REFORM: COMMITTEE MEMBERS DIVIDED OVER THORNY ISSUES
The 29-member Committee for the Reform of the Judiciary set up by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher, yesterday submitted its report with three of its members refusing to sign the document. Although, no official reason was given for their actions, but Daily Sun learnt that they disagreed with some of the recommendations reached in the report.
Specifically, a member of the committee told Daily Sun under anonymity that the contentious issues include those bordering on (a) whether the CJN should retain the chairmanship of the National Judicial Council (b) whether to allow members of the public to have input into the appointment of judges by advertising such appointments and lastly whether to retain judges who have been consistently performing below average.
According to the source, the judges who were members of the committee and who belonged to the conservatives group were all in favour of maintaining the status quo where a serving Chief Justice of Nigeria would retain the chairmanship of the NJC. Those in this category argued that there was no need to allow the public to make input into the appointment of judges.
Besides, the conservative judges also disagreed with the suggestion that judges who preformed below average be relieved of their appointments. Given this lack of consensus, some members of the committee reportedly refused to sign the report. Chairman of the committee, Justice Muhammdu Lawal Uwais after presenting the report confirmed that three people did not sign the report.
Justice Uwais gave their names as the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Joseph Daudu, SAN and two former Presidents of the NBA, Chief Olisa Agbakoba, SAN and Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN.
He was however quick to explain that Agbakoba excused himself on the ground that he was travelling out of the country. He however said that he did not know while Daudu and Akeredolu did not sign the report.
'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.'
Some of the radical members of the committee were said to have insisted on a solution to the debacle created by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Aloysius Katsina-Alu and the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Ayo Salami. While presenting the report, he said the committee made far reaching suggestions.
According to him, some of the recommendations wouldl 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.'
Responding, the CJN thanked members of the committee and promised to do his best in the implementation of the report.'It now remains for me to thoroughly study the report and put into motion actions which will lead to its implementation. I am confident that implementing the recommendations will restore the judiciary to its former glory and rekindle public trust in the judiciary.' It will be recalled that the CJN had on October 14, 2011 inagurated the 29-member committee to look into the rot in the judiciary..
The committee which has as its members eminent Nigerian jurists and legal practitioners was mandated to look into the trial process, procedural inefficiencies, poor infrastructure, poor conditions of service for judicial and non-judicial officers, declining intellectual quality and reasoning content of delivered judgments and, corruption.
The committee also looked into how to restructure and reposition the National Judicial Council, the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the National Judicial Institute.
Other areas the committee worked on included constitutional review of all Superior Courts of Records as well as the lower courts. Other members of the committee include: Justice S.M.A. Belgore, GCON (Former Chief Justice of Nigeria), Justice Idris L. Kutigi, GCON, (Former Chief Justice of Nigeria), Justice A.I. Katsina-Alu, GCON.