A former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, on Saturday lamented the negative impact of what she termed “rising culture” of lobbying, favouritism and godfatherism in the Nigerian judiciary.
According to her, the culture leads to fall in standard, devalues and weakens the judiciary because it brings incompetent personnel on board.
Justice Mukhtar spoke in Abuja at a book presentation held in honour of a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi.
Speaking as a special guest at the event, Justice Mukhtar said “merit” must be the watchword in the appointment of judges and the culture of favouritism, lobbying and godfatherism must be discarded for the judiciary to be strong as it used to be.
Mukhtar was the 14th CJN, the 13th Nigerian and the first female person to occupy the office.
Her tenure which spanned between July 16, 2012 and November 20, 2014 was popular for taking strong disciplinary actions against erring judicial officers.
She said, “I will, at this junction, revisit the issue of lobbying and in addition favouritism and godfatherism in the appointment of judicial officers.
“It is sad that we allow the rising culture of lobbying to influence appointment in the judiciary.
“If we are to revive what held sway in the past, that is, maintaining a strong and competent judiciary, then merit should be the watchword. Lobbying, favouritism and godfatherism should be discouraged and discarded, as they lead to the fall in the standard, and instead of enhancing the institution; they devalue and weaken it because of incompetence of the personnel.
“These practices negate the principles of justice and breeds indiscipline.
“I once read in one of our daily newspapers that lobbying is the norm in the USA (United States of America) and since we are practising the American system of democracy, it’s adoption here is in order.
“I disagree because even if they do so, they consider merit first as the efficiency and the intellectual ability of an appointee is always paramount, as far as the judiciary is concerned.
“We should not think of only what we desire today, but what we will bequeath to the generation yet unborn.”
She described the retired Justice Ogunbiyi, as “an epitome of humility.”
Other speakers, including the chairman of the event, a former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, a former Chief of Army Staff and Defence Minister, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma; Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, paid tributes to Justice Ogunbiyi.
Serving Justices of the Supreme Court, Prof. Yusufu Turaki, Prof. Babatunde Omotara, Justice James Ogebe (retd.); her husband, Dr. Bamigboye Ogunbiyi and a former Minister for the Federal Capital Territory, Alhaji Abba Gana, also poured encomiums on her.
The book, ‘Honey from the Rock,’ authored by Olugbenga Owa, is a biography of Justice Ogunbiyi.