Olumide Akpata speaking at the International Bar Association in Paris, France stated that there is a very intentional plan by the Nigerian political class to derail the Nigerian judiciary.
“While I was President what I found out is that there is a ploy on the part of the political class in Nigeria to capture the judiciary. It is deliberate, intentional and it is achieving results for them.”
The Immediate Past President of the Nigerian Bar Association went on to outline the three-pronged strategy which he noticed during his tenure: the appointment process which he described as “bizarre”; the deliberate impoverishment of judges and the total absence of financial autonomy.
“Firstly, as President of the Bar, I sat on the interview committee for judges and what I saw was bizarre… that a good judge will emerge out of that process in Nigeria is by fluke only, sheer luck, luck of the draw as it were. We are playing Russian Roulette with judicial appointments in Nigeria.”
“Two, the impoverishing of judges in Nigeria. I mean I don’t even want to tell you what a judge earns in Nigeria. Meanwhile, they are still at the upper echelon of society, they are still considered elite. Their kids want to go to Cambridge, Yale and Harvard, but they definitely can’t afford it. But I assure you that their kids are in Cambridge, Yale and Harvard. So, your guess is as good as mine as to how those kids get there.”
“And when we talk about calling them out because they are corrupt, we can call them out just by looking at their judgments. When a man who you know knows the law- and it’s not always the case that they know- and his judgment flies against the face of what the law should be, you know there is something else motivating him or her.”
“[Thirdly], the total absence of financial autonomy, so a judge needs cars or houses for his judges, he has to go to the governor. He has to go to the governor and some of them actually kneel before the governor, and then the governor will say, “I have just given cars to my judges”, your judges? They are not your judges.”
Earlier, in his statement, Akpata had said that “Judicial Capture” has invidious consequences for the rule of law in Nigeria, adding that at present what we have is, “an almost total erosion of confidence in the Judiciary.”
“In 2020, we had the End Sars which was an uprising from the people, and in Lagos. [the people] went to several public organisations, including the High Court, and they burnt down the entire court building. One picture that remains clear in my mind is the guy who had on the gown of the judge and put on the wig, he held books [in his left hand] and had a machete [in his right]. The people were sending a message to us that they don’t get justice in these courts because the kind of people who show up have no business, no business, being there.”
In conclusion, he invited the International Bar Association to lend its voice to altering the course of the Nigerian judiciary.
“Nigeria is the largest black nation on the Earth, and what happens in Nigeria has major implications the world over. We’re hoping that the IBA [being the global voice of the profession] should ascertain that what I say is correct and then lend its voice to the process of appointment.”
In response, the IBA committed to deciding on “whether a statement on the situation should come from the IBA or certainly from parts of it.”