Justice Adamu Dattijo, who retired on Friday, had scathing farewell remarks for the present-day judiciary which he implied had become seriously compromised as senior jurists have now succumbed to corruption and nepotism, appointing undeserving and unqualified judges merely to further their selfish and political agendas.
Given that the speech was delivered the day after Atiku Abubakar’s evidence of forgery against President Bola Tinubu was rejected by a panel of seven Supreme Court justices, it has ignited debates on social media particularly about the judiciary’s integrity—or lack thereof.
In his valedictory speech on Friday, Mr Dattijo said the days of merit-based appointments to the bench were long gone as lobbyists are now the ones bagging top judicial appointments.
“A couple of years ago, appointment to the bench was strictly on merit. Sound knowledge of the law, integrity, honour, and hard work distinguished those who were elevated,” the outgoing judge stated. “Lobbying was unheard of.”
He stressed that he never lobbied at any stage of his career for appointment or promotion and that the third arm of government then had a reputation for ensuring only the most qualified and competent officers occupied the right positions.
“As much as possible the most qualified men and women were appointed. That can no longer be said about appointments to the bench,” the outgone jurist sadly noted. “Appointments should not be polluted by political, selfish, and sectional interests. The place of merit, it must be urged, cannot be over-emphasized.”
The retiring judge made claims that the appointment process for the judiciary was now being carried out in a manner that would favour only the judge’s children and relatives passing over qualified candidates who aren’t as influential and affluent.
“Recently, fresh allegations have been made that children and other relatives of serving and retired judges and justices are being appointed into judicial offices at the expense of more qualified candidates lacking in such privilege and backing,” Mr Dattijo said in his parting address.
“It is asserted that the process of appointment to judicial positions are (sic) deliberately conducted to give undue advantage to the “children, spouses, and mistresses” of serving and retired judges and managers of judicial offices.”
Mr Dattijo further referenced the parting address of his senior colleague Adebola Adefope-Okojie, who in May 2023, said the citizenry had long lost faith in the justices with social commentators labelling them as “purchasable judicial bandits” due to the unpredictable nature of their judgements in the face of overwhelming damning evidence to the contrary.
“There must be a rethink and a hard reset. If the people we have sworn to defend have lost confidence, there is a problem that must be addressed,” Mr Dattijo quoted Mrs Adefope-Okojie as saying in May.