Chidi Odinkalu raises question over violation of agreement on appointment of new Appeal court judges

THE former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chidi Odinkalu, a professor, has raised questions about the violation of the agreement regarding the appointment of new Appeal Court judges.

He criticised the President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Monica Dongban-Mensem, and the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) for violating the agreement in appointing the judges.

Odinkalu revealed this in a series of posts on X, formerly Twitter, on Thursday, May 2.


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According to him, on November 19, 2020, the FJSC met in an emergency session in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to consider nominations to the Bench of the Court of Appeal on the request of the PCA, Dongban-Mensem.

He added that it was agreed at the meeting that as a criterion for consideration of judges for the Appeal Court, the PCA proposed and the FJSC agreed that judges who had not spent five years on the Bench or who had less than five years before retirement would not be eligible for consideration. 

According to the minutes of the meeting posted by Odinkalu and seen by The ICIR, the PCA informed members that 257 candidates were recommended for consideration for appointment as justices of the Court of Appeal and in line with the FJSC Revised Guidelines for Appointment or Removal from office of Judicial Officers (2015), 80 candidates had been shortlisted for members consideration, to fill vacancies at the Court of Appeal.

At the meeting, PCA submitted that the nominations were based on an objective evaluation of the nominees’ judgments and the recommendations each received.

The PCA also explained that she considered the age factor. 

She posited that judges who had not spent up to five years on the bench were not considered, while those who would not spend up to five years, if appointed before retirement, were also not considered.

She equally informed members that special attention was paid to specialised courts like the Customary Court, Sharia Court, and the National Industrial Court because appeals from these courts are brought to the Court of Appeal. She cited Section 237(2)(b) of the Constitution (1999) as amended.

However, according to Odinkalu, Eneche Eleojo has been nominated as a judge of the Court of Appeal despite clear rules to the contrary.

“Justices Mohammed Liman of Federal High Court and Lawal Akapo of Lagos High Court, both of whom have also been nominated for Court of Appeal, would also fall foul because they do not have more than five years to retirement (sic).

“Justice Toochukwu Victoria Nwoye of the High Court of Anambra State, also nominated for elevation to the Court of Appeal, was only appointed in December 2019 and is similarly less than five years on the bench.

“The question needs to be asked: why is the FJSC violating its own rules, and whose interests is it serving? he asked.

In a memo dated April 2, 2024, sighted by The ICIR and signed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Olukayode Ariwoola, who also serves as the chairman of the FJSC, 22 judges from state and federal High courts were nominated to the National Judicial Council (NJC) for consideration as Court of Appeal judges.

The list of the 22 recommended justices are:

  1. Polycarp Tema Kwahar – Benue

2. Ruqayat Ayoola – Kogi

3. Eneche Eleojo – Kogi

4. Asmara Akanbi Yusuf – Kwara

5. Abdullahi Muhammad Liman – Nasarawa

6. Abdu Dogo – FCT

7. Fadahu Umaru – Borno

8. Ishaq Mohammed Sani – Kaduna

9. Zainab Bage Abubakar – Kebbi

10. Abdulaziz M. Ankara – Zamfara

 11. Nnamdi Okwy Dimga – Abia

12. Toochukwu Nwoye – Anambra

13. Henry Aja-Onu Njoku – Ebonyi

14. Donatus Uwaezuoke Okorowo – Enugu

15. Ngozika N Okaisabor – Imo

16. Ntong Festus Ntong – Akwa-Ibom

17. Nehizena Idemudia Afolabi – Edo

18. Eberechi Suzette Wike – Rivers




     

     

    19. Lateef Babajide Lawal-Akapo – Lagos

    20. Abiodun Azeem Akinyemi – Ogun

    21. Oyewumi Oyejoju Oyebiola – Oyo

    22. Bayo Ademola Taiwo – Oyo

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