By Chijioke Okoronkwo
Abuja – Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says the integrity of the judicial system is crucial to everything in the society hence the need for stakeholders to engage in an honest discussion that examines the challenges and prospects.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement in Abuja, said that the vice president spoke at the Justice Research Institute (JRI) virtual round-table on Saturday.
The theme of the round-table is “Selection and Appointment of Judges: Lessons for Nigeria.”
The round-table comes under the Law and Policy series of JRI which is an open-access forum that features leading scholars, policy makers among other stakeholders.
Osinbajo said there was need for an urgent, honest and frank conversation about judicial reforms especially, the selection and appointment of judges in Nigeria, given the significant roles judges played in the polity, economy, social justice and democracy itself.
`There are very many aspects of the question that we are faced with today; they are many different contours to this issue. But one thing that stands out and we need to focus our minds on is about the question of the integrity of the judicial system.
“It is central to everything –how our economy works, because our judiciary arbitrates all economic issues, commercial disputes, among others.
“It is central to social justice; to the maintenance of the rights of citizens; central to democracy as we see it today; the court decides who was properly elected and who was not.
“So, the question of those who make those decisions, how they are appointed, who they are, is absolutely important; if people feel that justice is impossible, they will lose hope in the system and may resort to self-help.”
He said that in the administration of justice, frank and honest discussion must come between the legal profession itself, the judiciary, the executive, the legislature, and elite interests in our society.
According to Osinbajo, the questions of why an honest umpire should be appointed and why honest judges are needed must be asked.
“It is a selfless and patriotic duty that we must, as an elite sit down to talk about and to decide.
“We must agree to an objective process; to rigorously examine, to test, to interview all of those who come forward to become judges; we must agree to an independent process.
“There is no system that we are looking at where the people are perfect; again, underscoring the point for the kind of discussion that “takes into account all of the various issues.
“You cannot pick out the judiciary alone for censure for some of the failures in our system of administration of justice.”
He explained that the problem could be partly blamed on societal pressure on the Nigerian system of administration of justice.
On his part, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad described as apt the topic of the webinar.
He said that the National Judicial Council would support suggestions about reforms that ensured the effective dispensation of justice in Nigeria, including the appointment of judges to various courts in the country.
In his remark, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, emphasised the need for appointments to higher courts in the country to be based on competence and federal character as entrenched in the constitution.
Other speakers at the forum included the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Amina Augie.
Other are Justice of the Court of Appeal, Joseph Oyewole, who stood in for the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, and Dame Anne Rafferty, Chair of the Judicial College, Royal Courts of Justice.
The Chief Justice of Ghana, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah who was represented by Justice Samuel Marful-Sau, international anti-corruption activist, Prof. Patrick Lumumba, and the Managing Partner, Olaniwun Ajayi, Prof. Koyinsola Ajayi also featured.
The webinar was moderated by Mr Osaro Eghobamien, Managing Partner, Perchstone and Graeys; and Prof. Ayo Atsenuwa, Professor of Law, University of Lagos.