Tinubu Nominee List Sparks Outcry Among Senior Justices: A Politicized Selection Process?

The nomination of 22 justices for Supreme Court appointment has ignited a firestorm within the judiciary, leading to a clash among senior serving and retired justices over the list recently unveiled by the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC). Tensions are mounting as concerns rise regarding the politicization of the nomination process, drawing stern criticism from senior members of the Nigerian bench.

Voicing concern, a senior Justice remarked that President Bola Tinubu’s potential clash with a significant section of the Nigerian judicial elite could set an unprecedented precedent, highlighting the highly politicized nature of this nomination process, unlike anything witnessed in Nigeria’s history of appointing Supreme Court justices.

The controversy deepened with specific instances drawing severe scrutiny. In the North-Central zone, discord emerged as the son of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria was earmarked as a priority candidate over a seasoned jurist with over 15 years of Court of Appeal experience, relegated to a reserve position. Similarly, in the South-South slot, the individual acclaimed as the most qualified was curiously placed as a reserve candidate, raising eyebrows among judicial circles.

Sources revealed perplexing discrepancies during the processing phase, indicating the elevation of a justice, not initially shortlisted among the top four candidates sent to the FJSC. These anomalies prompt questions within the judicial community regarding the sudden prioritization of candidates over more highly regarded individuals.

The unsettling situation unfolded further in different regions. Concerns arose in the North-West over the exclusion of Justice AB Gumel, despite being the leading jurist from his zone. Similarly, in the South-West, the nomination of a justice who had never previously made the shortlist stirred controversy while a former reserve candidate from 2019 remained on standby.

The tumult within the judiciary raises fears among senior members of the Nigerian Judiciary about declining morale and escalating discord. However, amidst the controversy, Prof Yemi Akinseye George, SAN, a renowned academic and esteemed member of the inner bar, lauded the FJSC’s nominee list. While acknowledging the possibility of human error, he lauded the majority of the nominees as excellent, based on his extensive interactions with them, expressing a confidence score of 99.9% for the list’s overall quality.