Some retired Chief Justices of Nigeria (CJN) were conduits for corruption as they collected and shared bribes from people to judges, the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, has revealed.
In an article titled: ‘Appointment to the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria’, Sagay said it was time for the government to inject fresh blood into the office of the CJN.
Sagay said some of the former chief justices collected bribes in dollars to pervert the course of justice and corrupt judges.
Some judges are currently facing corruption charges after they were raided by men of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Besides, there have been calls by Nigerians for President Muhammadu Buhari to send the name of the acting CJN, Walter Onnoghen, to the Senate for confirmation.
This is as Onnoghen’s tenure in acting capacity gradually comes to an end and no name had been released.
But Sagay said the president would not just rubber stamp Onnoghen as recommended by the National Judicial Council (NJC) for the office of the nation’s Chief Justice.
The New Telegraph reports that Sagay accused the former CJNs of bringing ruins to the judiciary.
“The lack of due diligence on the part of the NJC allowed at least two Justices of the Supreme Court to slip through the net of judicial vetting to become the Chief Justices of Nigeria.
“And that became a permanent embarrassment to the judiciary and Nigeria as a whole.
“Up till today, one of them calling himself ‘consultant’ regularly carries money to his former colleagues, still serving in the judiciary, to buy justice for his law chamber clients while the other one specialized in dollars and distributing it amongst vulnerable colleagues.
“These are the types of Justices who have brought ruin to the Judiciary, making it necessary for close vetting of candidates for Chief Justice of Nigeria at the Presidential level,” Sagay reportedly said even though he did not mention a specific name.
He reportedly added that corruption in the judiciary was fueled by the lack of due diligence in the appointment of justices for the Supreme Court by the NJC.
He also reportedly said this had resulted in the decay and the embarrassment the Supreme Court was facing currently.
“This load has fallen on the President because of the failure of the NJC to exercise due diligence in the past when making recommendations to the President.
“From my own perspective, without any privileged information, I believe that this is the process ongoing right now.”
He added: “There has been extreme agitation and frenzy over the failure of the President to send Hon. Justice Onnoghen’s name for confirmation, literally within seconds of receiving the NJC’s recommendation.
“These agitations have exhibited either ignorance, bad faith or down-right primordial motives. The crossroads in which we find ourselves today is entirely of the making of the NJC and the legal profession as a whole.
“There is need to inject fresh blood into our judicial system by appointing qualified lawyers from outside the bench straight to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
“In this regard, senior law academics in our universities and senior renowned legal practitioners of integrity and acclaimed knowledge and skill in law should be an additional source to the appointment of appellate Judges, even as Chief Justice of Nigeria, directly.
“An appointee to the position of Chief Justice need not be the most Senior Justices of the Supreme Court.
“We must take into consideration the reputation, the integrity, the skill, productivity, established reputation of the candidate before appointing him to the position of Chief Justice of Nigeria.”
“It is unhealthy to the judicial system and the performance and integrity of the Supreme Court to continue with the present system in which a recently appointed Justice of the Supreme Court could calculate the date in which he is going to become the Chief Justice of Nigeria based on the ages of those above him in the hierarchy.
“I, therefore, appeal that our notoriously loquacious and unrestrained compatriots should desist from further hysteria to allow the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria to earn his position on his own merit rather than create a frenzy and furore which can result in the very opposite of what they are loudly agitating for.”