Inyang Ekwo, judge of a federal high court in Abuja, has fixed June 23 to hear a suit seeking to quash the recent appointment of appeal court justices.
The plaintiff, the Incorporated Trustees of Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), approached the court to challenge the exclusion of the south-east zone in the appointment.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/347/2021, the plaintiff, through their lawyer, Max Ozoaka, alleged that the defendants breached their oath of office and acted in violation of section 14 (3) and other the relevant provisions of the constitution.
They asked the court to determine “whether the defendants can completely ignore, disregard or infringe at will the principles of justice, fairness, equity, due process and federal character in the ongoing exercise of appointment of justices of the court of appeal, particularly with regard to the south east zone of the federation”.
They submitted that “having regard to the principles of equity and good conscience and the true intendment and purpose of the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria,” the south east zone is “entitled to three new slots” as against only one slot allotted to it in the bench of the appellate court”.
The plaintiff asked the court to issue an order “restraining the defendants, especially the 1, 2 and 3 defendants from continuing the ongoing exercise of appointment of Justices of the Court of Appeal unless and until the south east zone is accorded its rightful entitlement in the exercise, to wit, replacing or filling the vacancies in the bench of the court of appeal occasioned by the elevation to the apex court, retirement and death respectively of three justices of the court of appeal from the zone”.
Defendants in the suit are the National Judicial Council (NJC), Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), president of the court of appeal, the Federal Character Commission, and Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation.
The court had fixed April 8 to hear the matter but it was stalled owing to the strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN).
President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the appointment of 18 new justices following a recommendation by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Ibrahim Muhammad, chief justice of Nigeria, had fixed Thursday, April 29, to swear in the justices.
However, the inauguration ceremony was postponed indefinitely owing to the JUSUN strike.