The recruitment process is heavily flawed, argues Bayo Akinlade
Nepotism is the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives, friends, or associates, especially by giving them jobs. It is also defined as “The showing of special favor or unfair preference to any relative by someone in any position of power, be it ecclesiastical or not.’’
I am aware that my reference to President Muhammadu Buhari may immediately attract some form of debate which may most likely deter from the intent of this short writeup. I dare say that perhaps I am deliberate in this and my intent may have been achieved.
I have always wondered why the judiciary operates in a certain way in Nigeria. There seems to be an air of submissive behaviour around those on the bench. It is very distinct from mutual respect and professional courtesies. Let me describe what I am trying to explain; I once saw a magistrate kneel and cry before a very senior judge to my uttermost disgust, especially because this happened at a public legal function organised by magistrates.
I have seen many of these kinds of behaviour, some would say it’s just a sign of respect; after all we are a country of traditions and deep cultures (whatever that translates to).
Before my mind goes wandering off, I must get back to the attitude of the judiciary which by and large is a reflection of the character of whoever is the Head of Court. Simply put, the Chief Judge of a Federal/High Court; the President of the Court of Appeal and the CJN determine the character of the Judiciary individually and collectively. This, of course, shouldn’t be!
I would like to focus on the state judiciaries here. It is at the state level that everything good or bad about the nation’s justice system begins. Immediately anyone complains about corruption within the judiciary the very first indicator or cause is the appointment process. Why is that so? I would agree that it is most likely that the appointment process is the door through which the corruption and incompetency within the judiciary majestically walks through. It is however sad that even if this is the case; no one seems to want to tackle this anomaly.
Recently again in Lagos State, magistrates were appointed with no oversight or vetting process, just the State Judicial Service headed by the Chief Judge recruiting and appointing. Surprisingly, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has no say in the process. What can I tell you here except that the leadership of the NBA itself leaves much to be desired.
In this exercise of appointing lawyers into the Bench, we can see all the traits and character of NEPOTISM. That’s why a magistrate may seem subservient, a judge may appear condescending towards a more senior judge and so on, and so backward really. Professionalism, passion and knowledge are lost within the halls of justice in Nigeria. Frankly, more than a few of our colleagues on the bench are there because of who they know or who knows them.
As all things, there are a few exceptions but the thing is, it is hard to distinguish in most cases between a competency appointment-based process and the opposite, once the appointee has a connection with the appointor there is a doubt. Any form of relationship here has compromised the integrity of that process.
Of course, everything I note here may make us think for a moment that we need to change but after a few seconds of pondering; we reset our brains to default mode and submit to our basic phrase “This is Nigeria”.
I now find it exhausting trying to compare other nation’s judiciaries to mine, it makes no sense to. I have seen like never before a declining state of affairs within our justice delivery sector. The veil that covered the judiciary that made it sacred has been torn to shreds. The judiciary has been exposed, stripped of its virtues and sold off as a worn out chattel, no more to be celebrated, respected or feared.
The solution though, is a no-brainer but are we too set in our ways to retrace our steps? Only the future will tell. In the end, this is not about the leadership of President Buhari. His time is up but we still have the same heads of court and until their own time runs out, we remain as we are.
Akinlade Esq is the convener of Fight Against Corruption in the Judiciary and Duty Solicitors Network (DSN).