Retired Judge Emphasizes Need for Judicial Reforms and Expertise in Supreme Court Appointments

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By   Milcah   Tanimu

Retired Justice Sherifat Solebo, who served as a magistrate and high court judge in the Lagos State judiciary from 1999 to 2022, shares insights into her experiences and highlights the need for reforms in Nigeria’s justice system. In an interview with Naomi Chima, she discusses various aspects of the legal profession and judicial system.

Justice Solebo acknowledges that becoming a judge was not a childhood dream but rather a path she pursued through a chance meeting with a coursemate. She emphasizes the engaging nature of a judge’s work, particularly in Lagos, where daily court sessions and numerous rulings demand significant time and effort. Despite the challenges, she notes that judges do create time to unwind, utilizing recreation centers with facilities for leisure and relaxation.

Addressing the ongoing debate about judges’ salaries, Justice Solebo explains that the salaries are fixed by the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission, with the last revision occurring in 2007. She highlights the significant disparity in salaries, pointing out that Nigerian judges are among the least paid globally when denoted in dollars.

Regarding perceptions of Nigerian court judgments being overly technical, Justice Solebo attributes this to court procedures, rules, and the guidance of precedents. She stresses the importance of careful adherence to rules and laws, urging counsels to be meticulous in their approach.

Responding to concerns about public trust in the judiciary, Justice Solebo emphasizes the paramount importance of the integrity of judges, magistrates, and support staff. She calls for public education to promote objectivity and rational perceptions, acknowledging that there will always be winners and losers in legal proceedings.

On the issue of judges determining winners in elections, Justice Solebo asserts that court decisions are based on legal prescriptions and precedents, not public sentiments. She refrains from commenting on specific cases but notes that the appellate court will review and decide on appeals.

Expressing her opinion on appointments to the Supreme Court, Justice Solebo believes that judging requires expertise and skill developed over time. She argues against appointing lawyers straight to the Supreme Court, emphasizing that it should not serve as a learning platform but rather be reserved for experienced judges.

As for her retirement, Justice Solebo had anticipated retiring at 60 as a magistrate but fate led to her elevation to the High Court bench. She describes her retirement as a smooth transition, expressing relaxation and active engagement in post-retirement life.


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