Sixteen years after he was sacked from the Lagos State judiciary over allegations of corrupt practices, a former magistrate, Mr. Moses Adekoyejo Kazeem has again been nominated as a federal high court judge.
Kazeem, who was one of the 21 magistrates sacked by Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo sometime in June 2001 when he was the Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Lagos State, has emerged on the list of ten people recently shortlisted by the National Judicial Council (NJC) for appointment as judges.
It’s gathered that Kazeem is having the backing of powerful individuals in the presidency who wanted him appointed at all costs.
Just recently, Vice President Osinbajo at the opening of a two-day national dialogue on corruption organised by his office in conjunction with the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, spoke about his time as the Attorney general and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, and how he sacked Kazeem and 20 others magistrates after their unprofessional conducts came to his knowledge following discreet investigations.
He said findings as that time in Lagos judiciary, attributed the leading cause of corruption to favouritism in appointments of legal officers.
According to Osinbajo within one year of the reforms, 21 magistrates were sacked while three judges were recommended for disciplinary measures to the National Judicial Council.
There are indications that, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, (CJN) who is also the Chairman of the National Judicial Commission (NJC), Justice Walter Onnoghen may have unknowingly endorsed process for the appointment of Kazeem as a federal high court judge.
Stakeholders are worried because the constitution has vested enormous responsibility in the federal high court.
The court is undoubtedly one of the most strategic and significant arm of the judiciary, hence it should be empowered with the right capacity to discharge its functions
Consequently, appointing someone who had previously been sacked will rubbish the anti-corruption stance of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen and put the nation’s judiciary into disrepute.
It would be recalled that the CJN had repeatedly warned Judges across the federation to shun all forms of judicial malpractice capable of exposing the Nigerian judiciary to public opprobrium.
For instance, if guidelines for the appointment of judicial officers had been applied, the recommendation of a Magistrate who had previously been sacked from the Lagos judiciary should have been rejected by the NJC.
The NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment Judicial Officers of All Superior Courts of Record in Nigeria states that judicial officers must have unblemished record.
Specifically, Rule 4 (i) (a) provides for the candidates seeking to be appointed judicial officer must have good character and reputation, diligence and hard work, honesty, integrity and sound knowledge of law and consistent adherence to professional ethics.
Consequently, there is need for the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen to take a second look at the list of nominees and ensure that only those who are fit and proper are appointed as judicial officers.