The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Mahmud Mohammed has said that judicial appointments be made on the basis of clearly defined criteria and by a publicly declared process.
The CJN stated this recently during the Triennial Conference in Wellington, New Zealand, in a speech entitled “the role of CMs in the implementation of the Commonwealth ( Lartimer House) principles”.
He said that the need for a change in the criteria for the appointment of Judicial Officers in Nigeria prompted him to direct the National Judicial Council (NJC) to implement the new Revised NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Record in Nigeria 2014.
“It was clear that the old Guidelines and Rules had become unworkable as it saw anachronisms such as the limitation that saw only Justices of the Court of Appeal, as of right, making it to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Under the new, more rigorous and transparent rules, any qualified legal practitioner with the requisite intellect has the opportunity of making it to any court in the land and even to the posts of Heads of Federal and States Superior Courts, including the Chief Justice of Nigeria,” he said.
His words “As chairman of the NJC, I have had to take up the responsibility of ensuring that the overall appointments procedure maintains the institutional integrity of the judicial appointment process while ensuring that only the most competent persons are elevated.”
He further said that the Latimer Principles provide that judicial appointments be made on the basis of clearly defined criteria and by a publicly declared process.
These criteria, according to the CJN should ensure equality of opportunity for all who are eligible for judicial office and appointment on merit while ensuring that discrimination is ended and there is appropriate consideration given to the need for the progressive attainment of gender equity. Indeed Value 6 of the Bangalore Principles state that competence and diligence are prerequisites to the due performance of any judicial office.
“Furthermore, I have sought to guarantee the appropriate security of tenure and protection of levels of remuneration as is necessary for our judiciaries to function independently of the executive through the constitutional concept of fiscal autonomy. In this sense, I have a better appreciation of the fiscal situation of my country and work constructively with the other arms of government to meet the overall aspiration of efficient, cost effective governance that will benefit the tax payer.
He said that the current global war on terrorism and insurgency has necessitated the enactment of provisions that act as limitations on the independence and power of the judiciary.