PEGASUS LEGALSome hoodlums on Monday attacked officials of NAFDAC who were on enforcement operation against substandard drugs in Abuja. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)…
As a sequel to the pending suit instituted by some some Senior AdvocateS of Nigeria from Kogi state against the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Kogi State government over an alleged “illegal shortlist” for appointments into the state’s judiciary, the NJC has announced its suspension of the process.
Ahmed Gambo Saleh, Esq., the Executive Secretary of the Council in a in a letter he signed titled: “RE: NOTIFICATION OF THE PENDENCY OF SUIT NO.: FHC/ABJ/CS/05/2024, YUNUS USTAZ USMAN, SAN & 6 ORS. VS NATIONAL JUDICIAL COUNCIL & 3 ORS”, said”
“I write to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated 10th January, 2024 on the above subject matter and to inform you that the National Judicial Council being the apex body in the Judiciary understands that respecting the authority of the court is not only a legal obligation but also a fundamental aspect of maintaining a fair and just legal system. As such, the NJC has always been in the forefront of advocating for respect to the rule of law.
“2. Thus, I wish to inform you that once a suit is instituted against any appointment process, Council do put on hold the process, pending the determination of the matter. Consequently, the NJC has put on hold the process of appointment of Judges and Kadis for the Kogi State Judiciary, please.”
Click here for the letter.
After the institution of their action, a former Chair of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Anselm Chidi Odinkalu commended the seven SANs, urging that “SANs from other parts of the country cld take a cue…”
Odinkalu who stressed that it “it’s about time” via his X handle said: “I wld like to thank the Senior Advocates of #Nigeria, #SANs, from Kogi State, including Yunus Ustaz & @jibrinSAN, for #TakingAStand on this abuse of judicial appointments. It’s about time. If only SANs from other parts of the country cld take a cue…
The Plaintiffs— Chief Yunus Ustaz Usman, J.S Okutepa, Patrick Okolo, Abdullahi Haruna, Reuben Atabo, Shaibu Aruwa and Johnson Usman, are asking for an Interlocutory Injunction, restraining the defendants, their agents, privies and servants from fixing dates for interview of the shortlisted candidates as well as from inviting them for any meeting or from performing any other such functions in relation to the subject matter of this suit pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
Also joined in the suit filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, are: Kogi State Judicial Service Commission, the Attorney General and the Commissioner For Justice Of Kogi State as defendants.
In the Originating Summons with Suit No: FCT/ABJ/CS/05/2024, the Plaintiffs, by Chief Yunus Ustaz Usman and J.S Okutepa. Others are Patrick Okolo, Abdullahi Haruna, Reuben Atabo, Shaibu Aruwa and Johnson Usman, argued that the selection process violated regulations and constitutional principles of fairness, equity, and merit.
SaharaReporters reported on October 26, 2023 that about 17 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) from Kogi State called for the suspension of appointment of new Judges into the state judiciary until certain criteria are met.
The lawyers made the demand in a letter to the Chief Judge and Chairman of Kogi State Judicial Service Commission, Justice Josiah Majebi, which was dated October 20, 2023.
Titled “RE: Provisional Short-list Of Candidates Of Ten Judicial Officers Of The High Court Of Justice Shariah Court Of Appeal And Customary Court Of Appeal,” the indigenous Kogi SANs stated that appointment of Judges to superior courts of record is regulated and requires provision of basic facilities such as availability of court rooms/Judges chambers, official cars, residential accommodation as well as equipped library in Judges’ chambers, citing Rules 1-5 of National Judicial Council Revised Guidelines.
In the 12-point issues raised in the letter signed by Yunus Ustaz Usman, Life Bencher for himself and on behalf of 16 other Senior Advocates, the legal luminaries also pointed out that the proposed candidates listed for appointments of judges did not reflect the geographical spread. They noted that the list is lopsided to the disadvantage of other parts of the State.
According to the letter, the candidates listed for customary Court of Appeal are all from Kogi Central and there is no candidate from Kogi East or Kogi West, noting that there are qualified persons from Kogi East and Kogi West that were not selected.
Meanwhile, the legal luminaries, the suit filed today, January 8, 2024, before an Federal High Court, Abuja Division stated that the list were tainted with ethnic and political interference.
Amongst issues raised is the inclusion of Governor Yahaya Bello’s wife, Amina, as a proposed High Court judge when she neither has magistrate experience nor meets other requirements.
Apart from the fact that candidates where concentrated from Governor Bello’s Kogi Central district, the Plaintiffs pointed out that the selection of candidates in Kogi State for appointment as Judicial officers to the superior courts of record should be on the basis of “merits, competence, sound knowledge of law, fairness, equality and geographical spread within Kogi State devoid of ethnic and political considerations”.
The lawyers, however, expressed dismay that despite so many letters had been written on the issue before the court for determination yet little attention was paid to the complaints.
They cited the letter from NBA Lokoja Branch, lawyers of Okun extraction of Kogi State, which comprise of Five Local Government Areas to wit: Ijumu, Kabba/Bunu, Mopamuro, Yagba East, Yagba West, Kogi (Koton-Karfi and Lokoja Local Government Areas), and Igala Youth Leaders Assembly.In an Affidavit sworn by one of the plaintiffs, Patrick Okolo, SAN, the Plaintiffs insisted that the NJC guidelines and constitutional clauses governing appointments are mandatory and binding.“That despite the service of Exhibits 2, 3, 4 and 5 on the 1st and 2nd Defendants, they ignored same and went ahead on 23rd November 2023 to invite the said shortlisted candidates to the Department of State Security (DSS) for screening and on 1stDecember 2023, the 1st Defendant’s officials went to Kogi State to conduct an inspection of the facilities such as official cars and office space preparatory for the said appointment.“That the Defendants are now preparing to invite the shortlisted candidates for interview consequent upon which the successful candidates from the interview will be appointed as Judges of the High Court of Kogi State, Judges of Customary Court of Appeal of Kogi State and Khadis of the Sharia Court of Appeal of Kogi State without further delay from now.“That the 3rd Defendant is bent on the appointment of the said shortlisted candidates as judicial officers of the Superior Courts in Kogi State before leaving office at the expiration of his tenure on 27th January 2024 since his wife; Amina Yahaya Bello Esq was among those shortlisted.“That the said Amina Yahaya Bello Esq is No 4 in the shortlisted High Court of Justice List in Exhibit1.“That I know as a fact that among the Provisional Shortlisted Candidates for appointment as judicial officers to the High Court of Kogi State are two (2) Women from Kogi Central one of whom is Amina Yahaya Bello, Esq; the wife of the Governor of Kogi State who is not in private practice and not a Magistrate.“That I know as a fact that the said Amina Yahaya Bello, Esq and other candidates in Exhibit 1 do not have the required number of Judgments of both trial and appellate Courts that qualifies them for appointments as Judges of the superior Courts of records in Kogi Sate as required by the Rules of the 1st Defendant.“That I know as a fact that the three candidates provisionally shortlisted by the 2nd Defendant for appointment as Judges of the Customary Court of Appeal of Kogi State who are all from Kogi Central Senatorial District are Musa Onogo Idris Esq., Maryiann Ozohiu Esq., and Shaibu OzoveheEbenezer Esq,. have seniors from other Senatorial Districts of the State who expressed interest in being appointed as Judges but were not selected in spite of the fact that they are qualified and adjudged by all and sundry as being competent to be made judges.“That I know as a fact that the 2nd Defendant is doing the bidding of the 3rd Defendant and has wrongly recommended those who did not meet the requirements of appointment to the offices recommended in Exhibit 1 for purely partisan and political consideration as parting gift to the occupant of the office of the 3rd Defendant who is due to vacate office on the 27th January 2024.”The Plaintiffs formulated two questions for determination and sought for six reliefs from the court in the event that their questions were in affirmative.Among the reliefs sought are “an order of court restraining the Defendants/Respondents, their servants, agents and privies from taking any further step at all in respect of the recommendation and appointment of the shortlisted candidates pending the final hearing and determination of the substantive suit.“And for such further or other orders as this honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this suit.”
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