Monday, April 22, 2024

Odinkalu Exposes Politicization of Judiciary Appointments, Calls for Reform

Former Chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, HA Has waded into the issue of corruption in the judiciary.

Whilst speaking to the members of the Press recently, stated unequivocally that judicial independence had been trumped and appointments to the Bench had been politicized.

He recanted that of the 34 original nominees to the Bench, 23 were sons, daughters, mistresses and acquaintances of the top-ranking politicians.

The Human Rights advocate admitted that recent appointments to the Bench were largely influenced by a senior member of the Bench (unnamed), and the appointments were made behind series of close-door meetings and back-door handshakes between the judiciary and the Executive.

He made a satirical allusion to the game of chess, claiming that judicial officers were akin to pawns in the political landscape, and are in high-demand by corrupt politicians. This Executive-Judiciary tag team, he stated sadly, was veering away from the core tenet of democracy: separation of powers, and undermining free and fair elections.
He lashed out at the manipulative use of the Judiciary to secure highly coveted electoral positions, making reference to the case of Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa

The veteran lawyer surmised rather painfully, that the judiciary did not realize the enormity of the power vested in them by the Constitution and other relevant legal frameworks. Thus, it has abdicated its core responsibility to dispense justice, choosing rather to fraternize with self-seeking, sleazy and corrupt politicians in thwarting democratic processes.

He argued that this miasma predates contemporary Judicial appointments, and has been lingering on for decades. He made reference to the Babalakin report of 1999, which he dubbed as a must-read for all legal practitioners interested in understanding the history of judicial corruption.

He advised lawyers present to trenchantly argue for prompt and speedy exit from court with the same effervescence as they argue for equal and uninhibited access to court. He presented the recent statistics of judicial decision-making, buttressed by the popular case of Mojekwu v Mojekwu, to show that unnecessary delay tactics have succeeded in robbing the Court of its power to dispense justice. “Afterall, justice delayed is justice denied”, he claimed.

He stridently condemned the Statement made by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Y.C. Maikyau SAN, on Thursday, 20 June 2023. In his words, the statement made by the NBA Chairman was a disgrace, as he lacked the locus standi to make such a Statement.

He further derided the Statement as a disgusting cover up to blindside members of the public from the corruption in the Nigerian Judicial Council.

Concluding, he suggested that the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria should be unbundled. He advocated for the diffusion of the omnibus powers of the CJN, thereby allowing transparency and accountability.

He equally advocated for same to be done with the NJC and the NBA. Finally, he urged for a review of the process employed in judicial appointment and candidly observed that it was inept, and should be made more democratic, like that of Kenya.

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