By Cletus Opukeme, Editor
Human Rights group, Ijaw lawyers Forum in Delta state has made a peaceful protest in Warri against the Delta state government lopsided appointment of judge in the state, where Ijaw lawyers were totally excluded in the list.
In a protest letter addressed to the National judicial council, Abuja signed by the group chairman and secretary G. B. Timiyo esq. E. M. Suowari esq, Secretary on behalf of the group, the letter reads in parts ‘‘We are body of lawyers and write this letter on behalf of Ijaw Lawyers indigenous to Delta State.
In the past few days, we came across a list of persons shortlisted for appointment as Judges in Delta State. A careful perusal of the said list which captured names of persons from the 3 senatorial district in the State, revealed that not one of them is from the Ijaw tribe.
As a people the Ijaws in Delta State can be found in Bomadi, Burutu, Patani, Warri South-West, Warri North and Warri South Local Government Areas. They constitute a large population in the State and have from amongst them a large number of lawyers in public and private practice, Magistracy and Area Customary Courts who applied for and were recommended by Judges and are eminently qualified to be appointed as Judges. They have in the course of their legal practice of over Eighteen years post call, CONDUCTED matters to CONCLUSION in CRIMINAL, CIVIL, LAND and MATRIMONIAL CAUSES.
The secrecy that characterized the exercise leaves much to be desired. Contrary to RULE 3 (1) (a) (i) of the Extant Revised NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Records in Nigeria, 3rd November, 2014, the “CALL FOR EXPRESSION OF INTEREST BY SUITABLE CANDIDATES” was not published on the “NOTICE BOARDS OF THE COURTS AND NOTICE BOARDS OF NIGERIA BAR ASSOCIATION BRANCHES” in Delta State.
The above position played out in the monthly meeting of the Nigeria Bar Association, Warri Branch, which came up in April, 2019. When the question was asked if there was any letter to the branch on “CALL FOR EXPRESSION OF INTEREST BY SUITABLE CANDIDATES” to apply for the position of a Judge in Delta State Judiciary, the chairman of the branch answered in the NEGATIVE.
Furthermore, a careful consideration of the list of Judges and Judicial Officers in Delta State reveals the composition as follows:
In the HIGH COURT, out of over 30 judges, Ijaws have only = 2 Judges.
In the CUSTOMARY COURT OF APPEAL – Ijaws have no Judge at all
In the REVENUE COURT which has 21 Judges, Ijaws have only one Judge.
In the MAGISTRATE COURT which has 104 Magistrates, Ijaw has only 4.
From the above it is crystal clear that the Ijaws have been greatly marginalized and sidelined by the Government and were not fairly treated in previous appointment. From the list just published, same is about to repeat itself in the ongoing appointment exercise. For emphasis, the list just published contains twelve (12) names from each Senatorial District, no person from Ijaw Extraction was shortlisted in a Senatorial District that has IJAW, ITSEKIRI and ISOKO as her major tribes. We therefore say no to further sectionalism and breach of the Constitution vis-à-vis Federal Character as a people.
Although trite, we consider it necessary to state that by law, appointment into public offices must take into cognizance the composition of the State. We are of the view that the list just released and the present composition of the Judiciary in the State seriously marginalizes the Ijaws as a tribe and offends our Constitution.
In the circumstance therefore, we humbly appeal that a fresh look be taken at the list just released with a view to correcting this very obvious anomaly and neglect. Justice in the appointment of Judges must not only be done but must be seen to be done. Ijaws have a right to be appointed as Judges.
We thank you sir for your kind understanding and prompt action.
- B. TIMIYO ESQ. E. M. SUOWARI ESQ.
- B. TIMIYO ESQ. E. M. SUOWARI ESQ.