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Court faults Buhari over FCT judges appointment, says he breached constitution

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THE Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Wednesday faulted the decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to transmit the names of 11 lawyers nominated for appointment as judges of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to the Senate for screening and confirmation.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Inyang Ekwo who presided over the case said President Buhari acted in contravention of the provision of Section 256(2) of the Constitution when he sent the recommended names he received from the National Judicial Council (NJC) to the Senate.

Oladimeji Ekengba, an Abuja-based legal practitioner had, on July 15, approached the court in an ex parte motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/733/2020 and filed the suit over what he called an alleged breach of the Nigerian Constitution in the appointment of judges of the FCT High Court.

He had asked the court to restrain the Senate from screening, confirming, or swearing in the names of the persons as judges of the FCT High Court pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

In his judgment, Justice Ekwo said that President Buhari acted in contravention of the provision of Section 256(2) of the Constitution.

“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,” he said.

The judge stated that the instance where the President could forward NJC’s recommendation to the Senate was in respect of a High Court judge’s appointment.

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“Looking at the provision of Section 256(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), I find that there is no power or authority, expressed or implied, given to the first defendant (the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) to send names of persons recommended to him for appointment as judges to the Senate for screening.

“All that the first defendant needed to do was to send the names of the appointees to the seventh defendant (the NJC),” he said.

Justice Ekwo granted two of the plaintiff’s reliefs, which include a declaration that, by the provision of Section 256(2) of the Constitution, the President “cannot abdicate his duties and responsibilities to the Senate for the appointment of persons as judges of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.”

He stated that the names of the individuals nominated by the NJC for appointment as judges of the High Court of the FCT cannot be subjected to the screening and confirmation and that the forwarding of the names to the Senate was contrary to and in breach of Section 256(2) of the Constitution.

“As can be seen, this judgement affects only the act of forwarding the names of the appointees to the Senate, which was done in contravention of the provision of Section 256(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). It does not affect the swearing-in of the appointees,” the judge held.

Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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