Mr. Joseph Otteh, the founder of Access 2 Justice has identified Gerrymandering in the judicial arena as a more frightening problem militating against Open Justice. He made this position in his paper presented at a workshop with the theme Open Justice organized by FOI Counsel and NBA to mark the open data day.
He said “It seems as though the jostle for ethnic dominance we see going on the broader political landscape has now been carried over to the judiciary. It does strongly look like there is an agenda to ethnically re-balance the Supreme Court as well as courts under it”. He argues that the National Judicial Policy 2016 insists that judicial appointment process must be transparent, merit and skill based. He added that where judiciary fails to recruit the most qualified candidates to judicial office, the quality of administration of justice would be unsatisfactory to court users in that jurisdiction.
In his presentation, he argued that a nation’s judiciary determines how quite a lot of things go and one indicator that the judiciary is weak is that judiciary feels helpless. He admonished that the process for selection of justice must be opened up in both the lower and upper courts of record. He identified three major problems in the justice sector which include lack of publicity of vacancies, lack of transparency in the short listing process by Federal Judicial Civil Service Commission and standard-less selection objective
“Unfortunately, there is no system of accountability for bad appointments and those who get to suffer the consequences of judicial appointments are you and I. Those who recruit our judges do not get to answer for the choices they make. It is others who suffer from those wrong choices. The CSOs’ must come out to insist that the Judiciary observe its rules and guidelines. We must fight harder, if we don’t the forces that have held Nigeria’s judiciary captive and incapacitated will it keep going” Mr. Otteh concluded
For Hon. Justice Frances Esohe Ikpomwen, the former Chief Judge of Edo State, the judiciary is suffering from starvation. Until there is judicial autonomy there will not be open justice. The Benin branch Chairman of NBA, Mr. Pius Oiwo commended the state of openness in the judiciary and argues that access to court and its records are still veritable to rule of law and that the FOIA 2011 need no domestication for the implementation of the law and that any court that says otherwise is not leaving to its oath of office.
The Director of FOI Counsel, President Aigbokhan, Esq call on the court to develop Access to Information Policy (A2IP) as this is a requirement of Freedom of Information Act 2011 which mandate all MDAs and arms of government to embrace proactive disclosure. The information to be proactively disclosed include but not limited to duties of departments, officers, decision making procedure, manuals governing the departments, budget and subsidiary programmes.
Those present in the workshop which was hybrid (online and physical meeting) include the former chief of staff to Edo State Government, Dr. Isaiah Osifo, Mr. Abbas Inuwa of TranspancIT, Com. Austin Osakue of Foundation for Good Governance and Social Change (FGGSC), Mr John Osawe (member of Edo State Economic Team), Bulus Atsen the chairman of NBa, Abuja Branch and many others.