Group Faults NJC’s Selection of ‘Unqualified’ Candidates as FCT High Court Judges

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Group Faults NJC, Selection of ‘Unqualified’ Candidates, FCT High Court Judges
Chief Justice of Nigeria and chairman of the NJC, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, has been asked not to consider the National Judicial Council (NJC’s) recommendation for appointment as High Court judges of the Federal Capital Territory.

A petition by the Open Bar Initiative to the president dated May 6, 2020 and signed by the group’s conveners, Silas Onu and Chidi Odinkalu, alongside other five members, condemned NJC’s recommendation because “unqualified” candidates made the list simply because they had “connection” or are related to top officials of the nation’s judiciary.

The group said 17 of the 33 nominees were not qualified and their choice not credible

The group said in a press statement obtained by Judicial Sketch on Monday that it has copied its petition to the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.

According to the group, the unqualified nominees include Hafsat Abba-Aliyu, 42, the daughter of Justice Uwani Abba-Aji of the Nigerian Supreme Court; Njideka Nwosu-Iheme, 36, the daughter of Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court; Fatima Abubakar Aliyu, 35, daughter of the immediate past president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Bulkachuwa; Mimi Katsina-Alu, 46, the daughter of late Justice Katsina-Alu, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria; Ibrahim Mohammed, 40, the son of a former Grand-Khadi of the FCT; Nwabulu Chineze, 57, said to be a sister to the presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Akure; and Enenche Eleojo, 46, a personal assistant to the chief judge of the FCT High Court.

The petition was particular about the case of Olufola Olufolashade who it said was not shortlisted but was smuggled into the list by a Supreme Court justice.

“The selection process is fraught with judicial insider dealing which risk turning the judiciary into an instrument for advancing personal interest and patronage”, the petition said, adding that the selection process violated the NJC’s laid down rules and procedures and the High Court of the FCT (Number of Judges) Act, 2003.

The press release insisted that NJC’s selection process was an abuse of constitutional responsibility, saying, “The suggestion that judicial service in Nigeria is an inheritance transmitted from parents to children is not supported by the Constitution or any other instrument under the Nigerian laws.”

The group said it feared that good candidates have been deliberately excluded from consideration in favour of unqualified candidates who rely on their parents, husbands, uncles or other judicial insiders to clinch the job.

“These are not just unqualified nominees; they are bad nominees because only bad people will want to become judges through smuggling,” said Mr Odinkalu. “They will make bad judges. We should resist them and their sponsors.”

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