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Buhari asked to reject FCT judges recommended by NJC

Buhari asked to reject FCT judges recommended by NJC
May 06
19:21 2020

Lawyers under the auspices of the Open Bar Initiative (OBI) have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to reject the list of names recommended by the National Judicial Council (NJC) for appointment as judges of the high court in the federal capital territory.

In a letter addressed to the president, they alleged that the selection process violated the NJC’s laid-down rules and procedures for the appointment of superior court judges.

The letter was jointly signed by Silas Onu and Chidi Odinkalu, co-conveners of OBI.

According to the group, the list is also fraught with “judicial insider dealing” and this risks “turning the judiciary into an instrument for advancing narrow personal interests and patronage”.

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“On 26 April, 2020, the National Judicial Council (NJC) released, amongst others, 33 names recommended to your good office for appointment into high constitutional office as judges in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court,” the letter read.

“At present, there are 35 judges on the Bench of the FCT High Court, if these appointments are approved, the number of judges on the FCT High Court will be increased by nearly double or, specifically, by 94.28%.

“We feel compelled as citizens and duty-bound as legal practitioners of this great nation, to oppose the names recommended to your good office for appointment as judges into the FCT High Court and our reasons are detailed below.

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“To begin with, at least 22 of the 33 candidates presented to Mr. President for appointment as judges failed to comply with the existing standards and procedures for nomination and selection as laid down by the National Judicial Council (NJC).”

Quoting rule 4 (i) (a) (b) and (c) of the NJC’s appointment of judges procedure, the lawyers alleged that of the 33 names recommended, only 11 met the employment guideline of the NJC.

They also alleged that most of the recommended persons made the list because they are related to serving senior members of the judiciary or are close aids and members of the NJC.

“The implication of paragraphs “b” and “c” is that only four classes of lawyers are qualified to apply and be recommended to be appointed as Judges of a High Court and they are: Legal Practitioners in Private Practice; Legal Practitioners in Public Service who are Legal Officers; Chief Registrar of Court and  Chief Magistrates,” they said.

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“Of the 33 names recommended for appointment to Mr. President, only 11 met the criteria set out in the employment guideline of the National Judicial Council.

“There is evidence to suggest that most of these other 22 nominees who manifestly did not meet the NJC’s criteria got into this list because of their connections and/or family affiliation.

“The suggestion, Mr. President, that judicial service in Nigeria is an inheritance transmitted from parents to children is not supported by the Constitution or any other instrument under Nigerian laws.

“We urge your Excellency to disregard this recommendation and insist on a transparent objective recruitment process that obliges the NJC to at least comply with its own regulations and procedures for selection.”

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The lawyers said everyone must compete on a level-playing field with others.

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