During his farewell speech in Abuja, the outgoing Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, expressed concern about the state of the Nigerian judiciary.
He stated that it is plagued with corruption and secretive practices, which has resulted in a negative perception from the public.
Justice Muhammad also criticized the fact that two out of six geopolitical zones are not represented in the Supreme Court when it comes to hearing appeals on presidential elections, considering it a hazardous situation.
In addition, he highlighted the need for immediate replacements on the bench of the apex court due to a decrease in the number of justices.
Furthermore, Justice Muhammad, who held the second highest position on the apex court bench, advocated for limiting the authority of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) in order to prevent misuse of power.
Upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70, Justice Muhammad claimed that the negative perception of the judiciary stems from the appointment of judicial officers, which he believes has been tainted by political, personal, and sectarian interests.
He stated, “It is alleged that the process of appointing individuals to judicial positions is deliberately manipulated to provide unfair advantages to the children, spouses, and mistresses of current and retired judges and managers of judicial offices.”
“In the Court of Appeal, it is alleged, presiding justices are now being appointed irregularly. Additionally, recent court decisions have been marked by an unpredictable nature.”
“Respected senior members of the legal community, including the former President of the Senate Ahmed Lawan and those involved in the Imo governorship appeals, argue that the decisions made by the apex court have become unpredictable. The way the judicial pendulum swings is now difficult to understand, unlike before, as these senior members contend.
There is a strong belief in some circles that the institution is tainted with corruption and deception these days. Judges are said to be associating with questionable company that they would have avoided in the past. There are even suggestions that some judicial officers openly support politicians. This is extremely damaging to the integrity of the judiciary.
Justice Muhammad, who recently left the judiciary, agrees that the institution he once admired and willingly served has changed significantly. It has become something entirely different.”
In the past, being appointed to the bench was solely based on merit. Individuals were recognized for their extensive knowledge of the law, integrity, honor, and hard work. The concept of lobbying was unheard of, and I personally never engaged in it throughout my career in order to secure any appointments or advancements. The goal was always to appoint the most highly qualified individuals, regardless of their gender. However, the current situation has deviated from this ideal.
It is crucial for the judiciary to maintain its integrity and not be influenced by political agendas, personal interests, or sectional biases. The importance of merit cannot be overstated.
Unfortunately, public opinion of the judiciary has dramatically deteriorated over the years, with a significant amount of contempt and criticism directed towards it. Urgent reforms are needed to rectify the alleged irregularities and restore public trust in the judiciary.