Bauchi State Judiciary Service Commission on Friday cleared the air on rumours going on that it employed 18 upper area court judges, saying that it did not employ nor appoint new judicial officers, rather promoted deserving officers and also filled existing vacant positions in line with relevant laws.
The commission’s clarification came on the heels of the state House of Assembly directive stopping further recruitment pending the outcome of the investigation of its Committee of Judiciary.
Reacting to the decision, the Chief Registrar of the State High Court, Barrister Subilim Emmanuel Danjuma, asserted that the judiciary in the state is not synonymous with the state Ministry of Justice, adding that judiciary is one of the three arms of government, others being executive and legislature.
He added that the Ministry of Justice has no supervisory functions on the judiciary in the state as such does not have power to recruit or appoint judges for the state judiciary.
“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).
“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,” Danjuma stated.
He further stated that as a result of massive retirement of its personnel over the years, the Sharia Court of Appeal section had shortage of manpower both at its higher and lower bench.
According to him, the commission sought the approval of the state governor to promote deserving and qualified lower judges to the rank of Upper Sharia judges to meet this shortfall.
He added that the governor granted the request and 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 State Judicial Service Commission to be promoted to the position of Upper Sharia judges for its consideration.
Danjuma informed that the commission at its meeting on 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 as contained in the constitution.
“To set the records straight, the judiciary in Bauchi State and specifically the Sharia Court of Appeal section have a shortage of manpower both at its higher and lower bench. This is borne out of the massive retirement of its personnel overtime without replacement.
“This can also be seen in the recent appointments of Grand Kadi and four Kadis 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.
“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.
“It is 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).”
The Chief Registrar, therefore, declared that no appointment was made by the commission as speculated, saying that what happened was promotion.
“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 clarified.
Danjuma informed that appointment of judges was not only sensitive but also regulated by the National Judicial Policy, Judicial Appointments Guidelines and Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers.
In his words, “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.
He noted that for the avoidance of doubt, every aspect of judicial appointment process should be such that would command public respect and confidence that the best person in terms of skill, learning, integrity and courage are appointed as judicial officers.
According to Danjuma, “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.”