President of the NBA, Yakubu Maikyau, has made a call for members of the bar who are interested in filling the 16 vacancies in the Court of Appeal to submit expressions of interest to the national secretariat of the NBA on or before 5 October.
Over the years, the appointments process has generated some controversy, with many senior lawyers contesting the fitness of those who were appointed as judges to the appellate court, and believing the screening process for judicial officers needed to be reviewed. Previous NBA President Olumide Akpata, had also alleged the candidate interviews by the National Judicial Council (NJC) were shoddy.
Itse Sagay, a professor of law in Nigeria, said in order for the goal of the judicial system to be achieved, “careful attention must be paid to the way judges are appointed”. He also said there was a “need to seek the opinions of the local bar and colleagues regarding the fitness of prospective appointees for office, before forwarding their names to the National Judicial Council.” This is now being done.
Established in 1976, the appellate court entertains civil or criminal appeals from the Federal High Court, High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, the High Courts of each of the 36 States, as well as the National Industrial Court.
In addition, it hears appeals from the Customary Court of Appeal of States and the Federal Capital Territory as well as Sharia Court of Appeal of States and the Federal Capital Territory. It can also sit on appeals from court martials, election petition tribunals and other administrative tribunals such as the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Investment and Securities Tribunals and the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee.
Ninety judges are appointed to the appellate court, and new appointments are made if any of the judges are elevated to the Supreme Court, retire or pass away. Such vacancies are filled with judicial officers from the zone of the judge who died, retired or was elevated; this means the appointment is done on merit and geographical spread.
According to the NBA’s call, there are currently two slots open for the North-Central zone, three for North-East, five for North-West, three for South-East, two for South-West and one for the South-South zone.
Interested members need to submit the expression of interest letter along with other documents including a copy of the applicant’s Curriculum Vitae, Call to Bar Certificate, Evidence of payment of Bar Practising Fees (BPF), and certified copies of at least five judgements delivered in contested cases conducted by the applicant in the last five years. The NBA also requests a letter of good standing from the chairman of the applicant’s branch confirming that he or she is of good character, diligent, honest and consistently adheres to professional ethics.
Applicants’ names will be forwarded to the National Judicial Council for scrutiny.
Further information is available on the NBA website.
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