NJC - The 18th and 19th of March has been picked as the dates for the distinguished judicial body, the National Judicial Council (NJC), to discuss striking issues affecting the judiciary in Nigeria.
The two-day meeting is not just important because matters concerning the justice delivery system may be considered, but because the recent nominations of justices for elevation into the Court of Appeal is the most priority in the meeting.
Based on finding conducted by a correspondent of ASKLEGALPALACE the National Judicial Council (NJC) will consider nominations for the appointment of Chief Judges for threes states which are Ebonyi, Delta, Rivers states.
Accordingly, the incumbent Chief Judges of these states will be retiring soon. Our correspondent also gathered that there is also suspense among the retiring judges on the expected amendment of the constitution to allow for the increase in retirement ages for judicial officers from 65 to 70 for high courts and 70 years for Justices of Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justices. Other issues will be considered but the item on the elevation of the bench-men is vital for the meeting.
However, efforts made to speak with the NJC Secretary, Mr. Ahmed Gambo Selah, to know the agenda for the meeting proved abortive.
The meeting is very important as it will clear the air and solve the burning issues dealing with the claims that the nominations are discriminatory.
NBA NEC MEETING AND THE NJC MEETING
While members of the legal community patiently wait for the outcome of the NJC meeting, it is imperative to note that the days fixed for the NJC meeting clashes with the meeting of the National Executive Council of the Nigerian Bar Association. The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata, being a member of the NJC is expected to be in the meeting. Also, as a president of the bar, he is ordinarily expected to preside over the NBA NEC meeting. How can this be reconciled?
The President of the NBA, Olumide Akpata, said that he would be attending both meetings, although the NEC Meeting was fixed before the NJC meeting. According to him, whilst he will attend the first day of the NJC meeting as statutorily expected of him as a member of the NJC, he may be unavoidably absent on the second day, in order to meet up with the NEC meeting at Uyo.
“Automatically, the second representative of the NBA at the NJC will perform the function on-behalf of the NBA. He will make our position known to the Council regarding the appointment of the Justices,” Mr. Akpata added.
BACK TO THE CONTROVERSY OVER THE APPOINTMENT
The list of judicial nominees being considered for elevation to the Court of Appeal has faced strong opposition, especially, due to the perceived discrimination against some selected regions and religion. This new way of appointment has become unnecessarily untidy and controversial for lack of transparency and integrity. It has also ignited condemnation and dismay from a cross-section of the Nigerian legal community, including some distinguished legal practitioners and jurists, for lack of transparency and due process.
TNL had reported that the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) had called on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to reject the list compiled by the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) for the appointment of Appeal Court justices, which according to them has been allegedly compromised by politicians at the commission. This was made known in a joint statement signed by Mr. Yinka Odumakin (South-west), Chief Guy Ikoku (South-east), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-south), and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), on-behalf of the forum. They also expressed shock at the list of nominated candidates, saying that all the candidates picked from the North excluded Christians and that the merit list submitted to the Commission by the President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem was rejected.
“But for the nepotism that is celebrated in Nigeria today, what is the basis of not having a Christian on such list from entire northern Nigeria? We cannot accept that a multi-ethnic and religious country is being treated this way. We want them to call for the original list prepared by the President of the Court of Appeal to avoid lawsuit on the matter,” the statement reads.
NOTHING WRONG WITH THE LIST, APPEAL COURT PRESIDENT INSISTS
The President of the Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, PCA, defending the list faulted claims by some persons that the process of appointing Justices for the court has being manipulated to favour certain individuals, noting that those behind the false claims were interested in destabilizing and scandalizing the Judiciary. She also said the current recommendation pending determination by the National Judicial Council (NJC) was done without any preference for tribe, creed or association and if there were sufficient vacancies to be filled, all the nominees would have been recommended.
Lists of the shortlisted candidates
The shortlisted judges for interview by NJC priority candidates as listed by SMBLF include: Hon. Kadi Mohammed Danjuma (Niger State Sharia Court of Appeal); Hon. Justice Muhammad Ibrahim Sirajo (Plateau State High Court); Hon. Justice Abdul-Azeez Waziri (Federal High Court, from Adamawa State); Hon. Justice Yisuf Alhaji Bashir; Hon. Justice Usman A. Musale (FCT High Court, from Yobe State); Hon. Justice Ibrahim Wakili Jauro (Yobe State High Court); Hon. Justice Abba Bello Mohammed (FCT High Court, from Kano State); Hon. Kadi Mohammed Lawal Omar (Katsina State Sharia Court of Appeal); Hon. Justice Bature Isah Gafai (Katsina State); Hon. Justice Danlami Zama Senchi ( FCT High Court, from Kebbi State).
Others are, ‘Hon. Kadi Bello Ladan Raha (Kebbi State Sharia Court of Appeal); Hon. Justice Mohammed Lawal Abubakar (Sokoto State High Court); Hon. Justice Muslim Sule Hassan (Federal High Court, from Zamfara State); Hon. Junneth Ikechukwu Amadi (National Industrial Court, from Imo State); Hon. Justice Peter Oyinkenimiemi Affen ( FCT High Court, from Bayelsa State); Hon. Justice Sybil Nwaka-Gbagi (Lagos High Court, from Delta State); Hon. Justice Olasumbo Goodluck (FCT High Court, from Lagos State); Hon. Justice Adebukunola Banjoko (FCT High Court, from Ogun State); Hon. Justice Olabode Adegbehingbe (Ondo State High Court); and Hon. Justice Bola Samuel Ademola (Ondo State High Court).
The President of Court of Appeal did the needful in getting a list to fill in the vacant positions with regards to the appointment of Justices, but failed to publicize the list for lawyers, clients and members of the general public to attest to their character and integrity, which is the global best practice. And because she failed to do this very important part of the process, the appointment was infiltrated and hijacked by politicians and powerful people in government. People are justified for voicing their worries over the whole process. One can imagine that in a list of about 20 persons, thirteen (13) who are from the North, are non-christians. Not only was that the case, there is no woman in the list. This shows a major segregation against persons of the Christian faith, and women. This contravenes the extant provision of Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution.
Still on that list, the South West has only 1 nomination, whereas 3 kadis were appointed. With this, there is a full panel of Sharia judges on the bench of the Court of Appeal with others from other areas of the law absent. It was also gathered that a member of the NJC made the list to be appointed as the Justice of the Court of Appeal when there’s a saying that you cannot be a Judge in your own case (Nemo judex in causa sua). With all of these, one can say that the said list is tainted with secrecy, hence the controversies. The NJC has to look into this issue and see to it that it meets the expectations of Nigerians. The world is watching.
Based on the foregoing view, we have raised some posers for consideration.
1] Should judicial appointments be based solely on competence, or an equitable distribution of representation of regions laced with competence?
2] In cases where the judicial nominees are meant to replace a deceased judicial officer, should such an appointment be from just any region or state, or should the appointment be from regions of the deceased office holders, so as to balance the equation?
3] Is the President of the Court of Appeal now the prospective employer of these Judicial officers, such that the court is so much involved in the process, or does the NJC still have the final authority on the issue?
These are the questions the NJC has to take into consideration while making its decision.
Below is the list of NJC members:
Dr. Justice I. T. Muhammad, CFR, JSC
Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour
Hon Justice Monica Bolna’an Dongban-Mensem
Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola, CON Retired Justice of Supreme Court
Hon Justice Francis F. Tabai( Retired Justice of Supreme Court)
Justice Amiru Sanusi, OFR(Retired Justice of Supreme Court)
Hon Justice Sidi Bage Muhammad (Retired Justice of Supreme Court) 1, Emir of Lafia Bare Bari and Chairman Nasarawa State Council of Chiefs
Justice Umar Faruk Abdullahi, CON, (Justice of Supreme Court), Walin Hausa, Shettima Ilimuye of Borno.
Hon Justice John Terhemba Tsoho (Federal High Court Chief Judge)
Justice Kanyip a Judge of the National Industrial Court
Justice Oyebola Adepele Ojo, Chief Judge, Osun State High Court.
Justice Rabi T. Umar, Chief Judge Bauch State
Justice I. A. Iyayi-Lamikanra, DSSRS, River State
Hon Justice Onuoha, Arisa kalu Ogwe, Chief Judge Abia State
Justice Muhammad Sa’ idu Sifawa
Hon Justice Abbazhi, Musa Abubarkar Saddeq, president Customary Court of Appeal
Hon Grand Kadi Mohammed Danjuma, Grand Kadi, Sharia Court of Appeal
Olumide Akpata, President Nigerian Bar Association
Paul Usoro,SAN, Former NBA President,
Muiz Adeyemi Banire, SAN, NBA Member
Rakiya Sarki Ibrahim (MRS), Retired Public Servant
Mrs Rita Iember Inga, Retired Public Servant (Perm Sec)
Ahmed Gambo Saleh, NJC Secretary
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