PRESIDENT Buhari has again proved himself a clumsy strategist. On Tuesday, the Senate unveiled his request to have 11 judges confirmed for the FCT Judiciary, a move that is patently unconstitutional, considering the clarity of Section 256 (2) of the operational 1999 Constitution which stipulates that “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.”
The Senate has no role in the appointment of FCT High Court judges. Guess the president and his handlers couldn’t differentiate between sub-section 1 and 2 of the constitutional provision. The first sub-section which deals with the appointment of the court’s Chief Judge is the part with the Senate proviso. It reads: “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.” Has the presidency so degenerated that none of the random lawyers around the president couldn’t stop him before this huge public embarrassment?
Well, an Abuja-based lawyer, Oladimeji Felix Ekengba, has sued all connected with the embarrassing constitutional gaffe for all the sticks the president and his men can get. Hopefully, this blinding error would be quickly corrected and someone somewhere won’t advise any grandstanding that would stymie the little the leader was willing to do this time.
Yes, little, because the 11 names he wrongly sent to the Senate were actually out of 33 nominees cleared by the security community as proper and fit persons to be judges and found professionally-capable, by the NJC. With a new friend like President Buhari, judiciary should lose all sleep.
The Ahmad Lawan-led Senate which is always groveling before the president, possibly received the list on Monday and in its usual alacrity with anything Buhari, even when he is proposing to lease Nigeria out to China, the list was “unveiled” on Tuesday, without someone around the Senate President with enough commonsense to pause and ask why the senators were being burdened with wetin no suppose consigne dem. That is what you get when the relation between the president and the legislature is “shan sir, all correct sir”. Lawan should cover his face in shame and return Buhari’s exhibit to him.
It should interest Nigerians that this 33-nominee list which the president has now butchered and sent on Israelites’ journey, got to him before the coronavirus epidemic shut the world down about five months back. Those on the list are, however, luckier than the four nominees recommended for appointment to the Supreme Court. This month makes it the tenth month of their waiting for the appointor-in-Aso Rock to harken unto the voices in the wilderness, warning that the rudderlessness defining the so-called sectoral reform being undertaken in the Judiciary by the current administration will break into a greater pandemic than coronavirus.
Since one can’t put anything beyond an angry man, is it likely that the 11 nominees that appeared favoured were also deliberately sent on a wild goose chase so that their list could be returned to the president and back into his drawer? Is the blood that bad between Buhari and the institution? Is the entitlement sense and the emotions of perceived denial of the presidential seat pre-2015 still so strong that the Nigerian leader isn’t willing to let go, even after becoming president and winning an undeserving second term? So, what appeasement would be enough, for all these to be over, after the system had sacrificed its very honour by consenting to the removal of a sitting CJN via a jankara restraining order, an unprecedented event many of the top operators are yet to live down? If President Buhari knew the agony in the heart of the big men of the system, deferring to him on Onnoghen, maybe he would see the Walter sacrifice as enough libation.
If this administration should go into any legal contest with Ekengba instead of immediately withdrawing the 11-man list from the Senate, then it would be clear to all that sending the list there in the first place wasn’t an error, but a deliberate move to get the entire procedure entangled in legal gymnastics that could last the remainder of the life of this administration. That would be sad!
You want to ask why 22 names were dropped from a 33-man list. Well, only Aso Rock can explain, but nobody should come forward with the bunkum of adverse security reports. I know of a fact that the NJC considers no applicant without a security report on him or her, on the table and once you aren’t cleared, there would not even be an interview to test your professional capabilities. At that point, it would not matter if you are the most brilliant of all applicants. Once security reports say you aren’t a fit and proper person to dispense justice, you are out. So, if these 22 nominees were successfully screened by security agencies that report to the president and were found capable of using the instrumentality of the law to handle daily human activities, what parameters then did Aso Rock employ to disqualify them?
Ekengba in his suit alluded to the president abdicating his duties and responsibility. Is there truly someone somewhere playing a sick game and taking the president for a sucker? These are young people starting out their Bench careers at a rather unfortunate season for the Judiciary. Why should they be caught in what is becoming a very disturbing pattern with this administration for no fault of theirs? Why deliberately exacting pains on the innocent? As the appointor, yes, the president is at liberty to reject nominations from the Council, but his reasons can’t be anything outside adverse security reports. Any other reasons; tribe, religion, personal, political, have no place in the performance of constitutional duties and until the presidency comes out categorically to name the sins of the rejected 22, let the blood of their Bench careers, be upon all behind this charade.
- To be continued.
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