The Refusal of the Governor of Edo State to Swear-in Judges Recommended by the National Judicial Council for Appointment as Judges of Edo State High Court: an Abuse of Office and a Breach of Constitutionally Conferred Powers; Demand for Immediate Confirmation of the Judicial Appointments.
The democratic development of any sovereign entity entails the acknowledgment of a number of fundamental principles and nomenclature including the separation of powers and absolute respect for the rule of law. This acknowledgment requires therefore that every arm and agency of government consistently carry out their functions following due process in obesiance to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and other laws in the Country. Any departure from these tenets suggests a state of lawlessness, illegality and reckless disregard for the rule of law which is the bastion of Nigeria’s democracy as enshrined in Chapter 2 of the Constitution.
It has come to the attention of the Nigeria Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) that the Governor of Edo state, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has without any tenable reason failed, neglected and/or refused to swear in eight (8) judicial officers recommended for appointment as Judges of the High Court of Edo State by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
According to information gathered from the official website of the NJC, these nominees were recommended to the Governor for appointment as judicial officers since June, 2023 in compliance with the provisions of Section 271 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and till date, the Governor has refused and/or neglected to swear-in these judicial officers.SPIDEL states that the duty of the Governor of Edo State to swear-in these Judicial Officers is a constitutional obligation and not one to be observed at the pleasure of the Governor. Consequently, the continued delay to swearing-in the new judicial officers, is an abuse of power and an outright disregard for the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). For clarity, the provision of section 271(2) of the Constitution provides that;
‘the appointment of a person to the office of a Judge of a High Court of a State shall be made by the Governor of the State acting on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council ‘.
SPIDEL further notes that the failure of the Edo State Governor to swear in these Judicial Officers has occasioned an impairment to justice delivery system in Edo State. There is currently a paucity of Judges to attend to the increasing number of cases in the State, thereby overburdening the existing Judges in the state with great workload. Furthermore, this delay has greatly impaired the financial means of the designated judicial officers who are all currently idling away without any means of sustenance for themselves and their families as they can no longer, by virtue of their appointment as judicial officers, practice as lawyers.In the light of the foregoing, SPIDEL unequivocally demands the swearing-in of the Judicial Officers designate by the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki. We hope that the Governor will act accordingly and perform his constitutionally imposed duties in order to ensure that the justice delivery system in Edo State is not completely crippled.
Again, the unfortunate scenario in Edo State by which the Governor, a member of the Executive, has held the judiciary by the jugular, brings to fore the overarching necessity to completely insulate the Executive arm of Government from the appointment process of judicial officers or at best allow the executive or any other arm of government to play a merely nominal role in the process. A situation where the appointment of persons already interviewed, screened and adjudged fit and proper to adjudicate in the superior courts of a State by the NJC which is the apex constitutional body responsible for the appointment of judicial officers, is then subject to the pleasure of the Executive of the State augurs not well and it’s indeed inimical to the concept and practicability of judicial independence.
SPIDEL thus uses this medium to advocate that the Chief Judge of State be responsible for swearing in judicial officers and that no other arm of government be saddled with the responsibility that may be abused to subject the judiciary to its whims and caprices.
Dated this 17th day of November, 2023.