The House of Representatives on Thursday moved to whittle down the power of the President to sack judiciary officers in the country.
A bill to amend the 1999 Constitution to allow the National Judicial Council to be fully involved in the removal of a judge from office passed the second reading at the House.
If passed, the bill sought to give the NJC more powers to decide the fate of judges beyond recommending their removal to the President.
The long title of the bill, which was sponsored by a former Deputy Minority Whip of the House, Mr. Garba Dhatti, reads, ‘Bill for an Act pursuant to Section 9(1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) to alter Section 292 (1) (A) and (i) (ii) to include the National Judicial Council in the procedure for the removal of heads of courts established by the Constitution under Section 6 (5)’.
Dhatti explained that the aim of the bill was to shield judicial officers from possible abuse of power by the executive.
He spoke further, “It is to ensure that judicial officers, serving as heads of courts, are not victimised through removal by executive fiat, acting in concert with the legislature without any established or verifiable evidence.
“It is to subject judiciary personnel, serving as heads of courts established under Section 6 (5) of the Constitution, to removal only upon the advice of the National Judicial Council so as to ensure consistency in the process.
“On many occasions, judiciary personnel have been removed from office on trumped-up allegations without recourse to a body charged with the constitutional responsibility to investigate and recommend appropriate disciplinary actions.
“Since the provisions in the constitution did not give the National Judicial Council any role in the removal of heads of courts, it has left them at the mercy and whims of the executive.”
The bill appeared for debate just days after it had ordered an investigation into recent arrests of judges and the invasion of their homes by operatives of the Department of State Services.
However, its passage will depend on the report of the House Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review.
In the meantime, lawmakers passed it for the second reading in a majority voice vote.
The session, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, also passed a separate resolution, asking the Federal Government to comply with the Federal Character Principles in making appointments and recruitment into public offices.
Moving a motion on the issue, the Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Mr. Kingsley Chinda, observed that there had been non-compliance with Section 14 (1) of the 1999 Constitution in the appointments made by the government.
The House endorsed the motion.