Mahmud Mohammed, Nigeria’s Chief Justice has in his comprehensive speech at the swearing in of 22 Senior advocate of Nigeria on the 19th of September 2006, warned earlier that the appointment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria should never be politicised. He, therefore, urged the judiciary to strenuously resist lobbyists from interfering with the appointments of a new CJN. He cautioned that allowing lobbyists to interfere with the appointment will “undoubtedly and irreversibly hurt our justice system.”
The CJN who is due for retirement from the Bench in November added that the Constitution is clear as to the procedure that must be followed in appointing a Justice of the Supreme Court or a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria and such must be adhered to in appointing the next chief justice after his tenure.
“Given that this is my last Legal Year, I must use this medium to address speculations that have arisen as regards the appointment of persons to the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“Permit me to restate that Section 231 of the Constitution is clear as to the procedure that must be followed in appointing a Justice of the Supreme Court or indeed a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria. The National Judicial Council recommends and the Senate confirms such appointments.
“While I would admit that there is no constitutional restriction as to where those to be appointed are selected from, the long-held practice, which I daresay had been apolitical, transparent and fair, had been to appoint the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court to the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“The idea that we can appoint a legal practitioner without the proven experience or the character developed through years of active participation in adjudication, may indeed be fraught with risk, none greater than the risk of creating another sinecure for party loyalists or reducing the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria to one which can be lobbied for.”
While congratulating the newly appointed senior advocates, the chief justice urged them to strive to uphold the trust that the society reposes in them even as the new status has imposed moral obligations and professional duties on them.
“I, therefore, advise you to imbibe the highest tenets of integrity and humility that are befitting of your status. You must ensure that your reputation is carefully defended and protected, remembering that your privileges are ones of humility and service.”