You don’t need Senate’s approval to appoint FCT High Court judges, lawyers tell Buhari
•Demand approval of 33 NJC nominees
Legal practitioners under the aegis of Lawyers in Defence of Democracy (LIDD) have called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to immediately withdraw names of 11 nominees sent to the Senate for confirmation as judges in the FCT High Court, saying that the President did not need such confirmation from the Senate to appoint judges of the High Court.
To this end, they urged President Buhari to approve the list of 33 nominees rightly recommended to him by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The NJC has sent the list of 33 persons to President Buhari for approval as judges of the FCT High Court, out of which the President forwarded 11 names to the Senate for confirmation.
But the lawyers, in a letter written to President Buhari, said he should urgently withdraw the incomplete list of the 11 persons he wrongly sent to the Senate seeking their confirmation as judges of the FCT High Court; and instead proceed to approve the 33 names sent to him by the NJC.
According to them, 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 the National Coordinator of the group, Tochukwu Ohazuruike and the Publicity Secretary, Ishaq Bello, the legal practitioners made reference to Sections 256(1) & (2) of the Constitution which provides that: “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. (256:1)
“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. (256:2)”
The group also contended 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.
“In the present circumstance, any attempt to mislead the President to misconstrue and overreach 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, however, 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 being contended.
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 have no force of law and are null and void for being inconsistent with the provisions of Section 256(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended,” the letter stated further.