The Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, told President Muhammadu Buhari that his responsibility in the appointment of 11 judges recommended by the National Judicial Council (NJC) cannot be abdicated to the Senate.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment, also held that President Buhari acted in contravention of the provision of Section 256(2) of the Constitution when he forwarded the recommended names sent to him by the NJC to the Senate for screening.
President Buhari had, on July 7, forwarded the names of 11 persons recommended for appointment as Judges of the FCT High Court to the Senate for confirmation.
The appointees are Abubakar Useni Musa, Edward Okpe, B. Abubakar, M. Francis, Jude Nwabueze, Josephine Enobi, Christopher Opeyemi, Mohammed Idris, Hassan Maryam Aliyu, Fashola Akeem Adebowale and Hamza Muazu.
Oladimeji Ekengba, an Abuja-based legal practitioner had, on July 15, approached the court in an exparte motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/733/2020.
Ekengba had filed the suit over what he called alleged breach of Section 256 (2) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999, in the appointment of judges of the FCT High Court.
Other respondents in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Clerk of the Senate, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and the National Judicial Council (NJC).
In the suit, the lawyer urged the court to make an order of interim injunction restraining the respondents from screening, confirming and/or swearing in the names of the persons as judges of the FCT High Court pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
He was contending that President Buhari breached the constitution when he forwarded the names of 11 persons recommended for appointment as Judges to the Senate for confirmation.
In the judgment, Ekwo held that President Buhari acted in contravention of the provision of Section 256(2) of the Constitution.
The judge said the only instance where the president could forward NJC’s recommendation to the Senate, in respect of a High Court judge’s appointment, was when it related to the appointment of a head of court, like the chief judge.
He, however, held that the fact that President Buhari contravened the provision of Section 256(2) of the Constitution did not affect that swearing-in of the judges.
“The issue is straightforward. It is whether the first defendant (the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) acted in compliance with the provision of Section 256(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to have sent the names of the 11 persons recommended for appointment as judges of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja to the Senate for confirmation.