The Nigerian Bar Association, Warri Branch, Delta state, has written a
petition against the Chief Judge, Justice Marshal Umukoro and the
President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Stella Ogene, for
allegedly appointing their family members as high court judges in the
state without following due process.

Challenging the appointment, the NBA, in a petition addressed to the
chairman, National Judicial Council, (NJC), Abuja, signed by Michael
Asugo, chairman and John Aruoture, secretary, accused the chief judge
of breaching the guidelines of the NJC for the appointment of judges.

The petition said, "By a letter dated 6th June 2019, the Nigerian Bar
Association, Warri branch was called upon by the Judicial Service
Commission of Delta State to comment on the suitability or otherwise
of thirty-six shortlisted persons for appointment as Judges of the
Delta State Judiciary.

"Prior to this letter, there was no notification to the branch or any
other branch of the NBA in Delta State as provided for in the National
Judicial Committee (NJC) guidelines for the appointment of judges.
Notwithstanding the lack of notification, by its letter dated 24th
June 2019, the branch forwarded its comments on the suitability or
otherwise of the short-listed persons for appointment as judicial
officers to the JSC.

"In the course of time, the branch became aware of some serious
deficiencies in the exercise such as lack of any assessment of the
intellectual suitability of the candidates, scrutiny of their records
such as cases conducted by them or judgments delivered by them, etc."

It added, "The screening of the short-listed candidates that was
conducted by the JSC on the 16th of July, 2019 was a sham that could
not possibly determine the suitability or otherwise of any candidate
for appointment as a judge of the high court.

"When the names of the persons allegedly picked for appointment
filtered into the public domain, it became clear that the list of
persons forwarded by the JSC for the consideration of the NJC is made
up of some handpicked candidates and the blood relations of the Chief
Judge of Delta State, Hon. Justice Marshal Umukoro and the President
of the Customary Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice S. O. N. Ogene.

"The NJC guidelines for the appointment of judges were designed to
ensure that only suitably qualified candidates are appointed as
judges. It was also designed to ensure that the process of appointment
is transparent and credible.

"However, contrary to the clear provisions of Rules 3(1)(a)(i) of the
NJC procedural rules (the “Guidelines”), no call was made for the
expression of interest by suitable candidates by way of public notice
placed on the website of the Judicial Service Commission/ Committee
concerned, Notice Board of the Courts and Notice Boards of Nigeria Bar
Association Branches.

"Contrary to rules 3(1)(a)(iii) of the guidelines, no letter was
written by the JSC to “the Chairman of every branch of the Nigerian
Bar Association in the state concerned, asking for nomination of
suitable candidates for the proposed judicial appointment and
requesting that he/she brings to the notice of suitable candidates the
call for expression of interest by each of them."

The NBA noted further, "This means that only a select few who are
highly connected were informed of the commencement of the process.
This cannot be the intendment of the rules referred to above. There
was also a flagrant disregard of the germane provisions of Rules
3(2)(3)(4)(6)(8) of the guidelines."

Following the petition, the association disclosed that it had rejected
the purported list generated and forwarded by the JSC to the NJC and
therefore called for an in-depth review of the entire exercise by the
NJC.

 

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