Legal practitioners under the aegis of Lawyers in Defence of Democracy have again written to President Muhammadu Buhari, urging him to approve the list of 33 nominees rightly recommended to him by the NJC, and urgently withdraw the incomplete list of 11 persons he wrongly sent to the Senate seeking their confirmation as judges of the FCT High Court.
The lawyers in their letter said the 1999 Constitution as amended does not require the Senate to play any role in the appointment of Judges of the FCT High Court except for the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court.
In the letter jointly signed by National Coordinator of the group, Tochukwu Ohazuruike and Publicity Secretary, Ishaq Bello, the legal practitioners made reference to Sections 256(1) & (2) of the Constitution which provide:
- (1) The appointment of a person to the office of Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council, subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate.
(2) The appointment of a person to the office of a Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja shall be made by the president on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council.
Furthermore, the group contended in their letter that the President does not have the discretion to pick and choose 11 nominees from the list of 33 qualified candidates recommended to him by the National Judicial Council claiming that it would amount to unlawful usurpation of the exclusive constitutional functions of the NJC to so do.
The group insists that the clear intendment of Section 256(2) of the Constitution was for the President to solely ratify via appointment the 33 constitutionally qualified nominees, already conclusively screened and recommended by the NJC without more. And noted that;
“In the present circumstance any attempt to mislead the President to misconstrue and over reach his limited, narrowed and circumscribed input in the appointment of FCT judges will inadvertently set bad precedence in eroding and subjugating the independence of the judiciary which Nigerian constitution jealously guards and protects” the letter stated.
The Lawyers in Defence of Democracy further stated that the Senate, the NJC and the Chief Justice of Nigeria ,as well as the President should all stay further actions on the process as there was a pending suit filed by JRP Foundation Ltd/GTE which judgment will also determine the issues contended by the group in their letter.
The group however, maintained that the 1999 Constitution specifically stated the qualifications and requirements for being appointed a Judge of the FCT High Court and any other Rules or Regulations contained in any other instruments purporting to derogate from the provisions of the Constitution are therefore null and void and of no effect.
“Hence, anybody or persons seeking to surreptitiously and mischievously interfere, stampede and manipulate the Appointment of Judicial Officers for the FCT High Court based on mere NJC Guidelines ought reasonably to know that the said rules has no force of law and is null and void for being inconsistent with the provisions of Section 256(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended,” the letter stated further.
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