Bashir Hassan Abubakar
Against the background of concern raised by the Bauchi State House of Assembly in the recent promotions of some Judicial officers, the State Judiciary has clarified that it did not employ nor appoint new judicial officers but rather promoted deserving officers in line with relevant laws as well as to fill existing positions.
The Chief Registrar of the State High Court, Barr Subilim Emmanuel Danjuma said that the State Judiciary is distinct from the State Ministry of Justice.
“The State Judiciary is an organ of Government just like the Executive and the Legislature Constitutionally created under s. 6(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)”, said the CR
He added that,” The Ministry of Justice is a legal department of the Executive just like any other Ministry. The Ministry of Justice has no supervisory role whatsoever over the Judiciary as that has never been envisaged by our Constitution”.
“It therefore goes without saying that the Ministry of Justice does not have power to recruit or appoint judges for the State Judiciary. The appointment, promotion and discipline of judicial officers and staff of the judiciary strictly resides with the Judicial Service Commission a body created under s. 197 (1)(c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). So any purported exercise carried out by anybody or authority in respect of not only State judicial officers but even judicial staff is an exercise in futility”, he asserted.
“To set the records straight, the judiciary in Bauchi State and specifically the Sharia Court of Appeal section have shortage of man power both at its Higher and Lower bench. This is borne out of the massive retirement of its personnel overtime without replacement”, he explained.
He added that, “This can also be seen in the recent appointments of Grand Khadi and Four Khadis that add up to the Higher bench by His Excellency the Governor of Bauchi State. It is in this same vein that the Commission in its wisdom decided to seek consent and approval of the Governor to promote deserving and qualified lower judges to the rank of Upper Sharia Judges to meet this shortfall”.
He stated that, “The Governor in His magnanimity granted the request. On its part the Management of the Sharia Court of Appeal shortlisted and submitted briefs on 36 Sharia Judges to fill in the existing 18 vacancies in the 2021 Approved Personnel Budget to the Judicial Service Commission to be promoted to the position of Upper Sharia Judges for its consideration”.
According to the Chief Registrar, “It is worthy of note that the Judicial Service Commission in its meeting Number 004 of 5th October 2021, considered and approved the promotion of 18 out of the 36 Sharia Judges to the position of Upper Sharia Judges in the exercise of its powers under paragraphs 6 (c) of Part II (C) of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)”.
“It may interest you to note here that no appointment was made by the Commission as is being mischievously circulated in the media. The seamless and unfair accusations that trail the promotions seems to connote that this modest exercise of promotion was irregular and lopsided”, he lamented.
He then declared that, “We are not here to join issues with anybody, but rather, we are here to explain to undiscerning minds that the appointment of judges’ unlike other appointments is an exercise that is highly sensitive and regulated by the National Judicial Policy, Judicial Appointments Guidelines and Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers”.
“For the avoidance of doubt, every aspect of judicial appointment process should be such as would command public respect and confidence that the best person in terms of skill, learning, integrity and courage are appointed as judicial officers”, the Chief Registrar asserted.
He further stated that, “It is a basic and fundamental aspect of the Judicial Policy that the judicial appointments process must be transparent and merit – based.
“Indeed the yardstick for appointment in terms of skill, competence, integrity and comportment shall not be compromised and shall be strictly observed. See Paragraph 2.1.4 of National Judicial Policy of April 2016”.
Emmanuel Danjuma assured that all the yardsticks that are observed during appointments are the yardsticks used during promotions of all judicial officers by the Commission saying that by the provisions of s. 202 of the Constitution, it is clearly spelt out that in the exercise of its functions, the Commission shall not be subject to the direction and control of any other authority or person.
He said that, “We must reiterate here that a transparent and carefully designed appointment process is indispensable to an efficient and independent judiciary to be able to command public confidence in the administration of justice and capable of promoting and protecting the rule of law and human rights”.
“We must say aloud today that the Judiciary is apolitical. The politics of zoning or geographical spread has no place in cases of promotion in the judiciary. We should not be dragged into the mucky waters of politics and sectionalism as this will desecrate the sanctity of the temple of justice. We assure members of the public that the Commission is abreast with its powers and responsibilities and even during appointment”, he concluded.