Court dismisses suit seeking to stop appointment of 21 judges

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday dismissed a suit opposing the appointment of 21 persons on the list of 33 candidates recommended to the President Muhammadu Buhari for appointment as judges of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.

Justice Okon Abang in his judgment held that the plaintiff, Justice Reform Project Foundation, which is a group of lawyers mostly Senior Advocates of Nigeria, lacked locus standi, the legal right, to institute the suit to challenge the process of appointment of the judges.

President Buhari has since picked 11 of the names on the list recommended to him in April by the National Judicial Council, and they have since been sworn in by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad.

Justice Abang who upheld the preliminary objection filed against the suit challenging the appointment of 21 candidates on the list sent to Buhari, ruled that JRP failed to prove that they had any special interest to confer on them the locus standi to institute the suit.

He held that the plaintiff was not a party to the procedure for appointment of the judges and did participate in the exercise in any way, as such their interest in it was vague.

He added that the Federal High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit.

He said since the subject matter had to do with employment of the persons recommended by the National Judicial Council to the President, only the National Industrial Court had the jurisdiction to hear the case.

But he ruled that it would be baseless to transfer the case to the National Industrial Court as requested in the plaintiff’s alternative prayer since the group laced the legal right to file the suit.

The plaintiff had in its suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/602/2020 and filed on June 10, 2020 described the recommendation of the candidates by the National Judicial Council to the President as improper, adding that the 21 candidates were unsuitable for the appointment.

Joined as defendants in the suit are Buhari, the NJC, the Judicial Service Committee of the FCT, the Attorney-General of the Federation and the 21 nominees.

The Chairman of the Governing Board of the JRP Foundation, Mrs Funke Adekoya (SAN), stated in the affidavit filed in support of the group’s suit that the recommendation of 21 of the candidates was marred by “impropriety, anomalies and procedural irregularities”.

The group sought, among others, an order “setting aside the recommendation of the 2nd defendant to 1st defendant for the appointment of the 5th to the 25th defendants as judges of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja”.

The defendants filed a preliminary objection against the suit which the judge upheld on Wednesday by dismissing the action without considering its merit.

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