REPORT: Eight of 33 FCT judges nominated by NJC are children, relations of Justices
OF the 33 newly recommended Federal Capital Territory (FCT) judges by the National Judicial Council (NJC), at least eight of them are either children or relations of current or retired justices of Supreme and Appeal courts, The ICIR findings have revealed.
The 33 individuals are among the 64 judicial officials for states including the FCT High Courts recommended for appointment by the NJC in a document dated April 22, 2020, and released on April 26.
The appointment of the nominees has been characterised by controversy especially by those who believe their selection is not based on merit but on the strength of the influence of their fathers, mothers, or relations who, at one time or another, have been senior judicial officers.
One of the critics who have condemned the FCTA judicial authorities on its nominees is Silas Joseph Onu, a former Publicity Secretary of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Abuja chapter.
Onu argued that the nominated candidates lack the requisite qualities needed for the job.
“Some of these privileged children are magistrates with questionable qualities for the job, yet they got elevated ahead of known magistrates who have served for a longer period with years of experience and dedication to duty,” Onu said in a report.
His position is not different from that expressed by Open Bar Initiative, OBI, a platform run by a group of legal practitioners, who in three separate petitions called for the cancellation in what is believed to be “judicial insider dealing”.
The co-conveners of the group are Silas Onu and Chidi Odinkalu, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
Another point of concern raised by OBI is why the FCT High Court Chief Judge, Justice I.U. Bello, had earlier announced that they were in the process of appointing 15 new judges, only for NJC to release a list containing 33 names, representing a 45 percent increase.
The petition also alleged that some of the nominations were in clear “violation of applicable NJC rules for selection and appointment of superior court judges,” adding that one particular name, Olufola Olufolashade Oshin, who was not on the list of shortlisted candidates was added at the 11th hour.
In addition, it was also found that at least eight out of the 33 nominated persons are directly related either by blood or marriage to current or retired justices.
Nominees and their family ties
Njideka Nwosu-Iheme, 36, who is the daughter of Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court, is one of the names on the list. Nwosu-Iheme was appointed into the FCT Judiciary in March 2015 and currently serves as Magistrate I at the Wuse, Zone 6 Magistrate court.
Fatima Abubakar Aliyu
Another name on the heavily criticised list is Fatima Abubakar Aliyu, 35, a judicial worker, who is the daughter of the immediate past president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa.
While little is known of Aliyu’s service in the judiciary, her mother on the other hand retired after 45 years in the judiciary.
She was the first woman to be appointed President of the Nigeria Courts of Appeal. As president, Bulkachuwa wielded enormous constitutional power, appointing judges and presiding over election petition tribunals across the country.
Forty two-year-old Hafsat Abba-Aliyu was sworn in as a Magistrate I for the FCT judiciary in March 2015. She is the daughter of Justice Uwani Abba-Aji of the Nigerian Supreme Court.
While Abba-Aliyu’s service in the FCT judiciary is still in the early stages, her mother, Justice Abba-Aji has quite a high profile resume.
Prior to her elevation as a Supreme Court Justice in January 2019, Abba-Aji served as acting Senior State Counsel in 1984, Senior Magistrate II in 1986, Senior Magistrate I in 1987, Chief Magistrate II in 1989, Chief Magistrate I in 1991 and Chief Registrar in November 1991.
She was appointed judge of Higher Court in Yobe State Judiciary in December 1991, making her the first Lady Judge at Yobe State Judiciary, a position she held until July 2004 when she was elevated to the Court of Appeal.
Mimi Anne Katsina Alu-Apena
Mimi Anne Katsina Alu-Apena, 46, is the daughter of late Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria who died on July 18, 2018.
Ibrahim Mohammed, 40, is the son of a former grand-khadi of the FCT.
He hails from Buji LGA of Jigawa State and was appointed into the FCT Judiciary in May 2005. He currently serves as Senior Magistrate II at the Wuse Zone 6 magistrate court.
Kanyip Rosemary Indinya
Kanyip Rosemary Indinya is the wife of the President of the National Industrial Court, Justice Kanyip. She is also sister of a member of the National Judicial Council.
Hails from Donga LGA of Taraba State. She was appointed into the FCT Judiciary in 2004 and currently serves as a Chief Magistrate II in Bwari.
Currently serving as a Deputy Director at the FCTA, 57-year-old Nwabulu is said to be a sister to the presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Akure, Ondo State. She is ranked an ACR under the department of Return of Cases.
46-year-old Eleojo serves as an Assistant Director at FCT High Court and also a personal assistant to the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court.
In Rule four of the NJC procedural rules, it is indicated that certain classes of lawyers are qualified to apply and be recommended as judges of a high court.
The rule states that they must be either legal practitioners in private practice, legal practitioners in public service, chief registrar of a court, or chief magistrates.
Curiously, in Section 255 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), to qualify to becoming a judge in the High Court of the FCT, one must obtain a minimum of 10 years qualification as a legal practitioner.
Out of 33 listed candidates, only 11 meet the criteria set out in the employment guideline of the council, and 22, representing 66 percent, are yet to meet some of the specified requirements.
We misidentified one of the nominees, Mohammed Idris Sani Kutigi as son of the late Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, former Chief Justice of Nigeria. The nominee is not the son of the late CJN. The error is regretted.