In deference to state autonomy and perhaps the principle of federalism, the military regime continued to leave judicial organisation largely on state basis. However, in the areas of appointment, promotion, discipline and removal of judges, the new Decrees adopt the policy under Decree No. 1 of 1966, with some differences. Under Decree No. 1, judicial administration was centralized in the supreme military council acting after consultation, with the advisory judicial committee. under this arrangement, all judges in Nigeria were to be appointed or dismissed by the supreme military council after consultation with an advisory judicial committee this committee comprised the chief justice of Nigeria as chairman; the chief justices of the regions (states); the grand Khadi of the Sharia court of Appeal; and the Attorney General of the federation. The solicitor general of the federation acts as secretary of the committee.
The new Decrees depart in some important particulars from the above. First, the composition of the advisory judicial committee has been radically altered; it left untouched the chief justice of Nigeria as chairman; the Attorney-General of the federation to be a member; the chief justice of each of the states of Nigeria also remains. New appeal; the president of the federal Revenue Court; instead of the Grand Khadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal, it would now be one Grand Khadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal appointed annually in rotation by the supreme military council from the states having a Sharia Court of Appeal. The new Decree unlike the former one, did not include the solicitor general of federation as secretary to the committee. The reasons for this omission might be that the solicitor general invariably aspires to judgeship were made by the supreme military council after consultation with the Advisory Judicial Committee to advise the supreme military council before the latter makes an appointment. Again in terms of removal of justices and judges, the new Decrees, like Decree No. 1 of 1966 provided that the chief justice of Nigeria, the chief judge of the high court of a state, Grand Khadi of a sharia court of appeal, president of a customary court of appeal of a state shall be removed by the supreme military council on the recommendation of the Advisory judicial committee. They also provide that removal of judicial officers in other cases shall be by the supreme military council. the provision in section 256 of the 1979 Constitution to the effect that, ‘Any person who has held office as a judicial officer shall not on ceasing to be a judicial officer for any reason whatsoever thereafter appear or act as a legal practitioner before any court of law or tribunal in Nigeria is left undisturbed by Decree No. 1 of 1984. In the current wave of mass retirement of judges all over the country, in particular, some of them who are still young, the effect of this provision might likely create some hardship.
As under Decree No. 1 of 1966 the new Decrees also provide that, ‘No question as to the validity of this or any other decree or of any edict shall be entertained by any court of law in Nigeria. The decree means what it says in this provision was amply demonstrated when the Supreme Court felt otherwise. However, the courts have insisted, rightly in my view, that they are free to challenge the validity of an Edict if such edict is contrary to the provisions of a decree. There can be no other interpretation if the power structure and the integrity of the federation is to be maintained.
To conclude, we could see that in deference to federalism, the appointment, promotion and dismissal of judges are done centrally.
In this unit, we have considered the various issues on the administration of the judiciary during military regimes.