It is important to mention that Section 254B of the 1999 Constitution provides the procedure and modes of appointment of the President of the Court and other judges of the Court. It is pertinent to also note that the requirements and the procedures are similar to those applicable to the members of the various High Courts created under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There is the additional requirement that such persons must have considerable experience and knowledge in the law and practice of industrial relations and employment in Nigeria. The appointing and disciplinary authorities are the same and likewise the conditions of service.
To initiate the process for the appointment of a judge of the National Industrial Court, the President of the Court will have to seek for and obtain the consent of the Chief Justice of Nigeria who is also the Chairman, National Judicial Council.
Rule 4 of the Federal Judicial Service Commission Guidelines (for the appointment of judges), 2014, which came into force on the 31st October, 2014, provides that: “whenever appointments are to be made, the Head of the Court concerned must confirm by writing, under his hand, that vacancies exist and facilities such as courtrooms, vehicles, accommodation etc. are available before candidates are proposed for nomination”. See similar provision in Rule 2 (a) of the 2014 Revised NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Records in Nigeria
After obtaining the consent of the CJN, the President of the Court will then call for expression of interest from interested persons who are qualified to be appointed as a judge of the Court.
Rule 5 of the Federal Judicial Service Commission Guidelines (for the appointment of judges), 2014, provides that:
“For appointment of Judges/— into the National Industrial Court —–, the Head of Court —shall call for nomination from:
(i). The Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria;
ii). The President and Justices of the Court of Appeal;
iii). The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, the President of the National Industrial Court, Chief Judges of the Federal Capital Territory and States, Grand Khadis and Presidents of Customary Courts of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory and States;
iv). The office of the Honourable Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation;
v). The President, Nigerian Bar Association.
Note that the chairman of a local NBA branch is not qualified to recommend/nominate a candidate for appointment as a judge of the Court. Also no judge of any High Court, except the Head of Court, is eligible to nominate/recommend any candidate for appointment.
See also Rule 3 (1) (a) (i-iii) 2014 Revised NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Records in Nigeria for similar provision in respect of who may recommend candidates for appointment to the position of a judge of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
The implication of the above provision is that anyone who intends to become a judge of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria must be nominated by at least one of the persons listed in the above provision. You cannot nominate/recommend yourself for appointment.
Note that a judge of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria is also qualified to nominate a qualified candidate for consideration for appointment as a judge of the Court.
By Rule 3 (2) of the 2014 Revised NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Records in Nigeria: “any person nominating a candidate must do so in writing and indicate clearly and in detail, that he/she has sufficient personal and professional knowledge of the candidate’s requisite attributes for a reasonable period of time as would make him competent to make the nomination. He/she shall expressly certify that from his/her personal knowledge of the candidate, the candidate possesses the qualities set out in Rule 4(4)(i)(a)-(b) of these rules; and where applicable the qualities set out in Rule 4 (4)(4)(i)(d) and/or (e).
For better understanding of the discussion, Rule 4(4)(i)(a) is in respect of “Good Character and reputation, diligence and hard work, honesty, integrity and sound knowledge of law and consistent adherence to professional ethics”.
Rule 4(4)(i)-(b) stipulate that “active successful practice at the Bar, including satisfactory presentation of cases in Court as a legal practitioner either in private practice or a Legal Officer in any Public Service
Rule 4 (4)(4)(i)(d) provides for “ credible record of teaching law, legal research in a reputable University and publication of legal works”.
Rule 4 (4)(4)(i) (e) provides for knowledge of Arabic Language and grammar in respect of appointment of a candidate to the office of Kadi of a Sharia Court of Appeal (which is not relevant to our discussion here).
OTHER STAGES IN THE APPOINTMENT PROCESS.
In addition to the above provisions, successful nominees will be required to fill a voluntary information which will be issued to them from the Court. The form is meant to gather all salient and useful information in respect of each candidate. This is to give the Court a peep into the character, health status, work experience etc. of each nominated candidates.
It is after this stage that qualified candidates will be called for a written test. Names of successful candidates will then be forwarded to the DSS, the Police Force and other relevant security organizations for necessary background security check on such candidates. Candidates with favourable security reports will now be called upon for oral interview and further medical examination tests to ascertain their health status.
At this stage the Judicial Service Commission/Committee shall make a provisional shortlist on the merits consisting of not less than twice the number of Judicial Officers intended to be appointed at the particular time.
The chairman of the Judicial Service Commission/Committee shall place the provisional shortlist before the Judicial Service Committee for approval and upon such approval, with or without modification, the provisional shortlist shall become the final list. See Rule 3 (4 &5) of the 2014 Revised NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Records in Nigeria. See similar provisions in the Federal Judicial Service Commission Guidelines and Procedural Rules, 2014
By the provisions of Rule 5 of the 2014 Revised NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Records in Nigeria, the Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission/Committee shall recommend to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council for further screening and selection of final successful candidates, whose name(s) shall be recommended at the plenary of the National Judicial Council to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for appointments. Note that by the provisions of S. 254 B (2) of the CFRN (1999), as amended; “the appointment of a person to the office of a judge of the National Industrial Court shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council”.
Successful candidates at the end of these rigorous stages shall then be sworn in as a judge of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
It is important to hint this audience that anyone who may aspire to become a judge of the court must understand the law, most particularly in the area of labour and industrial relations, must be of impeccable character who must abhor corruption and other related vices, must be hardworking and dedicated and with no moral or professional blemish, amongst other things. For the above I refer to Rule 4 of the 2014 Revised NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Records in Nigeria