Legal professionals under the auspices of Lawyers in Defense of Democracy have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to disregard a petition written by a group, the Open Bar Initiative and grant approval to the recommended list forwarded by the National Judicial Council for the appointment of Supreme Court judges in the territory of federal District.
In a letter addressed to President Buhari and signed by the group's national coordinator, Barr. Ohazuruike Tochukwu and advertising secretary, I. A. Bello, lawyers described the petition against the nomination as mischievous, as it has no merit in asking for rejection.
The petitioners, according to the lawyers, based the petition on a misinterpretation of the law and on speculation and discrimination contrary to the clear provisions of Section 42 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
It should be recalled that the petition alleged that the selection process for judges violated the rules and procedures established by the National Judicial Council; violated the High Court of the FCT Law (Number of Judges) of 2003 and is full of negotiations with privileged judicial information that are in danger of transforming the judiciary into an instrument to promote personal interests and narrow sponsorships.
The statement says in part: “With due respect to our educated colleagues, they may not have been informed that, on March 17, 2016 and March 19, 2016, both Chambers of the National Assembly passed through the Superior Court of the Territory of the Federal Capital, Abuja (Number of Judges) (Draft Amendment) 2016, which His Excellency kindly approved on May 31, 2016. The summary of the content of the Bill was to increase the number of judges of the Supreme Court of the FCT of 37 to 75 to provide a sufficient number of judges, with a view to increasing the number of cases in the Court's scoresheets.
Once again, the petitioners claimed that the selection process violated the rules and procedures established by the National Judicial Council and began to declare at least 22 names on the list as unqualified. It is our claim that they articulated their petition on that leg based on a misinterpretation of our laws.
“The 1999 Constitution establishes in Section 256 (3) that: A person should not be qualified to hold the position of Chief Judge or Judge of the Superior Court of the Federation Capital Territory, Abuja, unless he is qualified to practice law legal doctor in Nigeria and is so qualified for a period of not less than ten years.
"This with all due respect is the only qualification for a person to be appointed as a judge of the Superior Court of FCT and no other."
He further stated that: “Excellency, in the third part of the petition, which alleges abuse of insider information that risks turning the judiciary into an instrument to promote personal interests and narrow sponsorships, we were eager to see the long list of names in the petition who were not qualified and were forced to be qualified based on their paternity and other filial considerations. However, examining the petition carefully, the petitioners cited only three children from late courts, retired and serving appellate judges from a list of thirty-three highly qualified candidates, who represent less than 10% of the list, but have dedicated an entire paragraph of the petition.
“It is vividly clear that this paragraph was inserted to allow this petition to receive the desired headlines, as it was received in the media, which is the extent of the effect that the petition can have. He achieved all the mischief and misperceptions he can achieve. If in fact serving and retired judges and judges were powerful enough to influence the composition of the list, the two judges and a late justice would not have been the only or most powerful people in the judiciary to push their children. But we must ask: did Judge Katsina-Alu (may his soul rest in peace) come from the dead to pressure for his daughter?