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There was once a Bench (2)

PRINCE Bolasodun Adesumbo Ajibola(82) served as a Judge of the International Court of Justice at the Hague between 1991 and 1994. Justice Timothy Akinola Aguda (1923-2001) from Akure in Ondo State was the pioneer Chief Justice of Botswana when the landlocked country gained its independence September 30, 1966.

Justice Egbert Udo Udoma(1917-1998) from Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom state,  was the first Chief Justice of Uganda from 1963 to 1969. He handled the Buganda crisis case in 1965.

Justice Udoma who later became the first indigenous Chief Justice of Uganda handed over to Justice Dermot Joseph Sheridan . He is the father of the present Minister in charge of Budget and Planning, Senator Udo Udoma.

Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola(83) from Ilesha,Osun state, served as a Justice of the Court of Appeal in the Gambia between 1980-1983. He later became the Chief Justice of the Gambia between 1983-1992. He was Vice President of the World Judges Association in 1991.

That was then. Not now. One can see the shock and disappointment when one read the arrest and persecution of some Judges recently. We can’t be all wrong. If we miss our way, I guess it  is the Bench that must serve as the touchlight to show us the way. In spite of what has gone wrong in the Bench there is still hope.

Section 211 of the 1979 constitution says “the appointment of a person to the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria shall be made by the President in his discretion subject to confirmation of such appointment by a simple majority of the Senate. The appointment of a person to the office of a Justice of the Supreme Court shall be made bythe President on the advice of the Federal Service Commission subject to approval of such appointment by a simple majority of the Senate. But Section 231 of the 1999 constitution says that (1) the appointment of a person to the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate. (2) The appointment of a person to the office of a Justice of the Supreme Court shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate.

Sections 230 to 296 have given wide powers to the National Judicial Council to carry out necessary reforms within the Judiciary. The members of the National Judicial Council are HON. JUSTICE W. S. NKANU ONNOGHEN, CFR, Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria,Chairman, HON. JUSTICE I. TANKO MUHAMMED, CFR, Justice of the Supreme Court, Deputy Chairman. Others are HON. JUSTICE Z. A. BULKACHUWA, HON. JUSTICE E. O. AYOOLA, CON,HON. JUSTICE S. A. AKINTAN, HON. JUSTICE I. F. OGBUAGBU, CON, HON. JUSTICE UMARU ABDULLAHI, CON, HON. JUSTICE V. O. A. OMAGE, OFR, HON. JUSTICE I. N. AUTA, OFR, HON. JUSTICE B. A. ADEJUMO, HON. JUSTICE KASHIM ZANNAH, OFR, HON. JUSTICE NASIR A. AJANAH, CON, HON. JUSTICE A. N. NWANKWO, CON, HON. JUSTICE M. L. ABIMBOLA, HON. JUSTICE OKOI IKPE ITAM, Chief Judge, HON. KADI MUKHTAR IMAM JEGA, HON. JUSTICE JULIA ASABE KYENTU, MR. A. B. MAHMOUD, OON, MR. AUGUSTINE ALEGEH, SAN, DR. GARBA TETENGI, SAN, LADY DEBBIE OBODOUKWU, MR. TIJJANI INUWA-DUTSE, ESQ., HAJIYA RAKIYA SARKI IBRAHIM, MON, MRS. R. I. INGA, Retired Public Servant (Permanent Secretary) DANLADI UMAR HALILU, ESQ., OON (Secretary).

A look at the profiles of members of the council, reveal they are  individuals those  integrity can not be faulted. The submission is for us to allow them to carry out the required exercise, not only rooting out corrupt Judges but also in the appointment of Judges. As they say in Latin “Post cineras Gloria venit”—meaning after death comes glory. They can still bring back the old glory to the Bench. It is not impossible.

“A lawyer lives for the direction of his people and for the advancement of the cause of his country”.-Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams (1855-1915), first Nigerian Lawyer called to the Bar on November 17, 1879, who later became Chairman Nigeria Bar Association between 1900 and 1915.


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