•Supreme Court of Nigeria
The National Judicial Council (NJC) will hold its last quarterly meeting for the year this week, wherein, it will ratify the appointment of 11 justices for the Supreme Court, as well as judges for the states of the federation.
It was gathered that the NJC will meet on Wednesday and Thursday, December 6 and 7, to conclude works on the 22 nominees sent to it by the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) for openings in the Supreme Court bench, reports Daily Sun.
It was gathered that the NJC will commence the appointment process, which include interviews and review of the report of its panel that screened the candidates, from Wednesday and conclude on Thursday, by picking 11 names. The successful candidates will be recommended to President Bola Tinubu, who will, in turn, transmit the same to the Senate for screening and confirmation.
According to our source, “The council members will exhaustively consider each candidate for appointment and study petitions against them, if any, by their merit. Where allegations are proven, those involved will be rejected. In the end, the 11 candidates found to be credible and capable will be ratified.”
The source revealed that the NJC would be thorough in its selection process, adding that in looking at the candidates, where anybody in the ‘reserve’ is found more capable than the ‘priority,’ such candidate will be chosen.
The NJC members will also consider and recommend judges for appointment into the Federal High Courts, the National Industrial Court, and heads of courts, as well as judges at the state level. The names of the new judges for the state High Courts, Customary Courts of Appeal and Sharia Courts, will also be forwarded to state governors for ratification.
By the provisions of paragraph 20 of part one of the third schedule to the 1999 Constitution as amended, the NJC comprises the CJN, who is the chairman; the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court as the deputy chairman; the President of the Court of Appeal; five retired justices selected by the CJN from the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal; the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court; the President, National Industrial Court of Nigeria; and five chief judges of states to be appointed by the CJN from among the chief judges of the states and of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on rotation to serve for two years.
It was gathered that 22 nominees had been screened by the appointment panel of the NJC headed by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun. The candidates have also been screened by the Department of State Service (DSS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The Supreme Court, as presently constituted, has only 10 justices on its bench, which is short of the constitutional requirement of 21 justices. The ratification of the 11 justices by the NJC, the recommendation by President Tinubu and the confirmation by the Senate will ensure full constitution of the Supreme Court with 21 justices.
The FJSC has the statutory responsibility of conducting some of the earliest steps in the process of appointment of judges for federal courts, while the various states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, have their analogous bodies carrying out equivalent roles.
The involvement of either the federal or state judicial commission begins after the head of the court that is in need of judges declares vacancies on the court’s bench. Those interested in the positions indicate interest by getting recommendation letters from justices and other relevant officials in the justice sector and send same to the FJSC.
The FJSC then reviews the applications by checking for eligibility of the applicants in terms of their professional records, and geographical zones of origin, and interviews them to prune the number.
At the end of the process, the FJSC sends a list of nominees, double of the number of the openings on the court’s bench, to the NJC.
The FJSC list that emerged last month is made up of names of 22 judges of the Court of Appeal seeking to be elevated to the Supreme Court bench.
They are from different geo-political zones of the country. The various zones have varying number of nominees on the list, depending on how many representatives they currently have on the Supreme Court bench.
Currently, only four of the six geo-political zones are represented on the Supreme Court bench. While South-West and North-east have three each, South-South and North-west have two each.
Both the South-East and North-Central have zero each. The two zones lost their last representatives on the bench with the retirement of Dattijo Mohammed from Niger State (North-central) in October, and the death of Centus Nweze from Enugu State (South-East), in July. This explains why the two zones with no representatives on the bench have the highest number of nominees on the FJSC list.
Both the South East and the North Central have six each. The North-East has two, North-West four, South-West two and South-South two.
The nominees are made up of priority candidates, with each having their reserve candidates listed next to them. Each reserved candidate is on the list as a possible quick replacement, should there be any need to drop the corresponding priority candidate.
The candidates nominate are Hon Justice Nwaoma Uwa (Abia State)-Priority; Justice Onyekachi Otisi (Abia State)-Reserve; Justice Obande Ogbuinya (Ebonyi State)-Priority; Justice Theresa Orji-Abadua (Imo State)- Reserve; Justice Anthony Ogakwu (Enugu State)-Priority and Justice Chioma Nwosu-lheme (Imo State)-Reserve for the South East.
The South South has Justice Moore Adumein (Bayelsa State)-Priority; Justice Biobele Georgewill (Rivers State)-Reserve, while South West has Justice Adewale Abiru (Lagos State)-Priority and Justice Olubunmi Oyewole (Osun State)-Reserve.
The North Centrsl has Jummai Sankey (Plateau State)-Priority; Justice Muhammad Ibrahim Sirajo (Plateau)-Reserve; Justice Stephen Adah (Kogi State)-Priority; Justice Ridman Maiwada Abdullahi (Nassarawa State) -Reserve; Justice Baba Idris (Niger State)-Priority; and Justice Joseph Ikyegh (Benue State)-Reserve.
The North East has Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani (Bauchi State)-Priority and Justice Abubakar Talba (Adamawa State) while the North West has Justice Muhammad Lawal Shuaibu (Jigawa State)-Priority; Justice Bello Aliyu (Zamfara State)-Reserve; Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar (Kebbi State)-Priority and Justice Abdullahi Mahmud Bayero (Kano State)-Reserve.
It was gathered that the NJC will retain its recognition of the Chief Judge of Osun State as head of the judiciary in the state. However, the Council is looking into the complaints by Governor Ademola Adeleke.
Meanwhile, fresh facts have emerged about Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, who recently retired from the Supreme Court and tried to open the underbelly of the apex court.
It was gathered that Justice Muhammed was the second most ranking justice at the Supreme Court, who was chairman of the NJC appointment, finance and constitution review committees.
Justice Muhammad, it was gathered, was senior to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olukayode Ariwoola, at the Court of Appeal, but the latter was appointed to the Supreme Court before him.
It was gathered that when Justice Tanko Muhammed retired as the CJN, some people pushed for the convention to be broken for Justice Dattijo Muhammed to become the CJN, but former President Muhammadu Buhari stuck with the seniority protocol and appointed Ariwoola, who was next in rank at the apex court.