The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, on Saturday, threw his weight behind any planned moves to reduce his powers of appointment of the members of the National Judicial Council.
He spoke as a special guest at the ‘Law and Policy’ webinar series with the theme, ‘Selection and appointment of judges: Lessons for Nigeria.’
The event organised by the Judicial Reform Institute, had the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, among others, calling for reform in the process of the appointment of justice.
Some of the participants at the event called for the reconstitution of the National Judicial Council, the body charged with the responsibilities of appointing and disciplining of judges.
A co-moderator of the event, Osaro Eghobamien (SAN), noted that the CJN, who is also the Chairman of the NJC, is conferred with powers to make appointment of 86 per cent members of the council and 60 per cent of members of the Federal Judicial Service Commission, which is also chaired by the CJN.
Asked if he would be willing to support a reform for the reduction of the appointment powers of the CJN into the institutions, Justice Muhammad, said he would fully throw his weight behind such moves.
He said, “I will accept it 100 per cent, because this is something for the nation. It is not something for one individual.
“But where the law has conferred powers on a particular individual, he has to exercise powers; there is nothing you can do.
“But certainly, if this would be amended, I give 100 per cent for the amendment.”
Other participants noted that the process of appointment of judges had become polluted with political and sectional interests instead of merit.
Osinbajo said perceived lapses in the judiciary and entire democracy should not be entirely blamed on judges.
He said that the judiciary was constantly under pressure from politicians and other interest groups to do their biddings.
“Today you can own the judge, tomorrow another person can own the judge – it doesn’t make sense. We need to have this conversation. It is not enough to say judges are bad.”
Gbajabiamila said “we need to strike a balance between merit and ethnic balancing, Federal character must not give way to merit.”