One of the oldest practising lawyers in Nigeria, Pa Tunji Gomez, has advised against appointing Senior Advocates of Nigeria as justices of the Supreme Court.
According to the octogenarian Lagos lawyer, he said nothing good would come out of it as such appointment would mark entrance of political judges into the apex bench and erode the independence of the judiciary.
Gomez who had severally canvassed for abrogation of silk title in Nigeria condemned the move as one aimed at killing the morale of the Justices of the Court of Appeal, who, according to him, had paid their dues over the years and were awaiting their turn to be elevated to the apex court.
Gomez spoke with journalists last week on the premises of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
He called on the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, and the National Judicial Council to immediately put a stop to the process, adding that it was done without consulting majority of lawyers in the country.
He said, “I am sure that the majority of lawyers will not appreciate the movement by which the procedure is being put into effect.
“It is inimical to the judiciary; it is inimical to the profession. Besides, it creates an unfair trading because, let’s face it, they are now going to bring SANs above Appeal Court Justices to the Supreme Court.
“The Court of Appeal judges, who have been there for years, are being portrayed as unfit for the post of a Supreme Court judge. A man who passed through the high court, Court of Appeal, and now suddenly, you say he’s not fit and you went and bring a lawyer.
“It is demeaning; it is a sign of condemnation to the Court of Appeal Justices that they are not fit. And that is very bad. It is bad because people won’t respect them anymore. It is bad because judges of the high court are being told that these SANs are superior to them, which is not true.
“It creates a tremendous fear in the judges of the high court.”
He added, “If you are in the position, you rose from the high court to the Court of Appeal, now you are senior judge of the Court of Appeal, then instead of elevating you to the Supreme Court, they went to pick a practising lawyer, how do you feel? Is that justice? Is there any reason to compare the judges with the SANs? What is the comparison? Let them suspend it!
“The lawyers were not fully consulted. Let us suspend it immediately before we kill the judiciary. Because if we don’t, it would end up with every Tom, Dick and Harry becoming a Supreme Court judge. We must stop it.”
The Nigerian Bar Association had recently forwarded the names of six SANs and three other lawyers to Justice Onnoghen for consideration for appointment as Supreme Court Justices.