A rights organization, Access to Justice (AJ), has called on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to immediately cancel the judicial appointment exercise in Abia state over allegations of abuse and corruption.
The rights group stated that the Judicial recruitment exercise embarked upon by the Abia State Judicial Service Commission (JSC) should be immediately cancelled given the allegations of corruption surrounding the exercise.
According to AJ’s Executive Director, Joseph Otteh, media reports alleged that some members of the Abia State JSC and staff of the State Ministry of Justice demanded huge bribes from persons applying for judicial vacancies in the State’s High Court, in order to recommend them for positions.
He said: “At present, the Abia State JSC has reportedly shortlisted fifteen (15) candidates out of one hundred and eighty-two (182) who applied for ten (10) vacant positions.
The list is reported to have been forwarded to the National Judicial Council (NJC). “According to the reports, a syndicate of the Abia State JSC alongside officials of the Abia State Ministry of Justice approached the candidates demanding a bribe of N15 million to facilitate the inclusion of their names in the NJC’s shortlist.
“It is also reported that a female magistrate who participated in the examination mortgaged her family house to raise money as demanded, and thereafter collapsed and died on learning subsequently that the bribe was not a guarantee for a successful application “These allegations, as far as we can ascertain, have not been denied by the Abia State Judicial Service Commission.
The allegations have grievous consequences for the integrity of the judicial selection system established by the NJC, and shows how the system can potentially be outwitted and its outcomes grievously corrupted by insider dealings.
“While this may be the first publicly reported case alleging extortion by, or bribery of members of a Judicial Service Commission, it could also point to the possibility of past occurrences that have gone under the radar. In any event, what is clear is that the 2014 Judicial Appointment Guidelines need to be urgently revised and its vulnerabilities plugged