Afe Babalola canvasses longer years for serving judges
• Wants CJN’s appointment based on merit
•’Only restructuring can make Nigeria better’
Founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), has admonished authorities in the judiciary to review the retirement age of judicial officers.
The Director, Corporate Information of the university, Mr. Tunde Olofintila, in a statement in Ado Ekiti, yesterday, said Babalola gave the advice during virtual launch of books in honour of retired Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour of the Supreme Court to mark his retirement from the Bench upon attaining age 70.
According to him, Babalola particularly canvassed upward review of the retirement age of Supreme Court justices from the current 70 to about 100 years, “if life service is not possible.”
The Eminent jurist said: “There is urgent need for reform of our judicial system. This is with particular regard to age of judges, most especially those at the Supreme Court.
“Experience has shown that a person becomes wiser and more experienced as he advances in age.
“Under our judicial system today, Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour is retiring at the age of 70 when he has not shown any sign of physical weakness and when Nigeria would have benefitted more from his wealth of wisdom, insight and experience.
“A brief look at other countries shows that appointment to the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment. There is no age limit for a justice of the Supreme Court to retire. Often times, they stay as long as they probably can.
“In fact, many die while in office. But those who opt for retirement, the average age is 78.7 years. The average retirement age has grown a whooping 103 years in other climes”.
Babalola also advocated that under the review, retiring judges should be allowed to practise law.
“Even if judges are not allowed to return to full practice, there should be a measure of participation in law practice that will ensure their relevance in the nation’s development of law.
“I suggest that Nigeria should adopt the quasi-restrictive style, which is in operation in the United States whereby a sitting judge may recuse himself in the case of conflict of interest or allow retiring judges to prepare and draft pleadings, motions and appellate briefs,” he said.
On appointment of judges, the senior advocate said the position of Chief Justice of Nigeria is so important that it should not be based on promotion but strictly on merit.
“I know from experience that the best judges are those who have been in active litigation, who have interacted with clients, who have drafted claims and pleadings and who have addressed legal issues at different levels of the courts.
“This is why, in other climes, judges are chosen from seasoned legal practitioners. I recall the case of the late Justice Teslim Olawale Elias (SAN). He was appointed as CJN and President, International Court of Justice. He was Attorney General of the Federation when he was a professor at the University of Lagos and was invited to the Supreme Court where he eventually became the CJN.
“I have always been an advocate of a new constitution to correct the ills inherent in the 1999 Constitution bequeathed to Nigerians by the military and christened a ‘people’s constitution’.
“My crusade for restructuring and a new constitution started as far back as November 4, 2001, when the descendants of His Majesty, King Abbi Amachree IV, the Amanyanabo of Kalabari gathered in Port-Harcourt to celebrate the first memorial lecture. I was honoured to deliver the lecture titled ‘Nigeria in Search of a Nation,” he said.
According to Babalola, restructuring will assist the country in many diverse ways, including having a truly federal constitution that would cause a change in the mode of election and the type of people that are elected to govern the people.
“Our constitution is the greatest problem, the operation of the constitution is expensive with its attendant over-concentration of power at the centre, thereby rendering the states and local governments totally impotent unlike what obtained under the Parliamentary Constitutions of 1960 and 1963.
“ I say with emphasis that the only change that can change the country for the better and pave way for enhancement of a more united Nigeria is to restructure
“It is that change that will make politics less attractive, make each state to develop at its own pace and do away with all shades and shapes of criminality, guarantee employment, eradicate poverty and make individuals to become true Nigerians,” he said
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