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Cancel follow-up judicial appointment in Abia, A2J urges NJC

By Joseph Onyekwere
25 October 2022   |   3:33 am
Access to Justice (A2Justice) has demanded the cancellation of the 2022 judicial appointment exercise in Abia State and an outright rejection of the list of candidates for judicial appointment in Abia State for being the outcome of the process that was conducted...

Access to Justice (A2Justice) has demanded the cancellation of the 2022 judicial appointment exercise in Abia State and an outright rejection of the list of candidates for judicial appointment in Abia State for being the outcome of the process that was conducted in substantial breach of the applicable National Judicial Council (NJC) Guidelines for Judicial Appointment.

The demand is contained in a letter dated October 4, 2022 addressed to the Chairman of the NJC.

In a statement signed by A2Justice’s Senior Programme Officer, Chinelo Chinweze, urged the NJC to cancel exercise undertaken by the Abia State Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and to investigate the attempt to mislead or deceive the NJC regarding the composition of the list of recommended candidates sent to the Council, and to hold any person, who is found liable accountable for misconduct.

It said: “A2Justice believes this form of ‘shortlist engineering’ and scheming is unbefitting for a judicial institution, and completely unacceptable for use in procedures leading to judicial office, since the tactics illicitly circumvent and undermine procedural safeguards instated by the NJC towards ensuring that candidates selected for judicial office are not unfit for such office. Manipulating lists of candidates for judicial office could be used to smuggle in candidates who are unfit for judicial office through the backdoor.

“In fact, A2Justice has, as it indicated in its letter to the CJN, received information that the list of recommended candidates submitted to the NJC by the Abia JSC does in fact, included person(s), who have falsified their ages, as well as those implicated in financial malpractices during the time they held certain positions.

“A2Justice petition further alleges that there was, during the selection exercise, no neutral, independent or reliable assessment of the merits of candidates who indicated interest in the judicial positions and that no tests or examinations were conducted for the candidates before they were shortlisted.”

Recall that in 2021, A2Justice had made a similar petition, after information emerged alleging that the judicial selection process embarked upon by the JSC was marred by corruption, and that a Chief Magistrate slumped and died over reports that her name was not included in the final list of candidates submitted to the NJC after she had borrowed funds to pay bribes for that purpose.

Consequently, the Abia State JSC subsequently cancelled the judicial selection exercise. After the cancellation of the exercise, the Abia State JSC, chaired by the Chief Judge of Abia State, subsequently, began another round of the recruitment exercise.

According to the group, from the information available to it and its own inquiries, the 2022 recruitment process is likely just as flawed and tainted, and has breached the NJC’s guidelines on appointment of Judges.

“Our petition claims that the shortlist of candidates, which the Abia State JSC sent to the NJC was contrived, being different from the shortlist of candidates presented to stakeholders in the course of the judicial selection process, and which the Abia State JSC used as the basis for inviting the input of those stakeholders – specifically the Abia State branches of the Nigerian Bar Association.

“The impression given is that the Abia State JSC deliberately presented a shortlist of candidates that did not include the names of some candidates (to avoid objections and controversies) to the NBA (and possibly serving and retired Judges), and then, afterwards, stealthily doctored the shortlist by placing additional names on it before sending the final list to the NJC,” it claimed.