Group urges NJC to cancel judges’ appointment in Abia, alleges bribery
Access to Justice (A2J) has urged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to cancel the appointment of high court judges in Abia State, over the allegations of corruption against it.
It also urged NJC to set up a committee to investigate the allegations of corruption surrounding the selection exercise and to examine whether anyone subject to the disciplinary control of the NJC was implicated in, or had knowledge of, the alleged extortion by members of the Abia State Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
The group, in a statement signed by the Convener, Joseph Otteh, and the Project Director, Deji Ajare, noted some media reports alleging that some members of Abia JSC and staff of the Ministry of Justice demanded huge bribes from persons applying for jobs in the state’s high court, to recommend them for the positions.
“At present, the Abia JSC has reportedly shortlisted 15 candidates out of 182, who applied for 10 vacant positions. The list is reportedly forwarded to the NJC.
“According to the reports, a ‘syndicate’ of the Abia State JSC, alongside officials of the Abia State Ministry of Justice, approached the candidates demanding a bribe of N15 million to facilitate the inclusion of their names in the NJC shortlist. It is also reported that a female magistrate, who participated in the examination, mortgaged her family house to raise money as demanded, and, thereafter, collapsed and died on learning subsequently that the bribe was not a guarantee for a successful application,” A2J stated.
These allegations, it added, had not been denied by Abia JSC.
“The allegations have grievous consequences for the integrity of the judicial selection system established by the NJC, and shows how the system can potentially be outwitted and its outcomes grievously corrupted by insider dealings. While this may be the first publicly reported case alleging extortion by, or bribery of, members of a JSC, it could also point to the possibility of past occurrences that had gone under the radar. In any event, what is clear is that the 2014 Judicial Appointment Guidelines needs to be urgently revised and its vulnerabilities plugged,” the group stated.
A2J further demanded the removal and prosecution of any member of Abia JSC where the committee substantiated the allegations of extortion by them, and to ensure that any subsequent judicial appointment in Abia, and other states of the federation, were closely monitored and supervised.
For that purpose, it insists that an external, independent body be charged with the responsibility of evaluating the results of any test conducted on the candidates applying for the high court vacancies in Abia.