By Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja has adjourned to March 7, the suit filed by a Lagos-based lawyer, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, against President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) over the appointment of a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
Omirhobo had dragged Buhari, the AGF and Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), Justice Samuel Walter Onnoghen and the National Judicial Council (NJC) before the court over the appointment of a substantive CJN and the principle of separation of power.
When the matter came up last Thursday, only the NJC was represented while others were absent even though they had been served with the originating summons.
Counsel to the plaintiff, Mrs. Chinwe Okpala, confirmed to the court that all the defendants have been served with the originating summons but none so far responded.
She said in the view of the development, she asked the court for a date for hearing.
Responding, trial judge, Justice Tsoho adjourned to March 7 for hearing of the matter.
In the suit filed for himself and on behalf of the generality of Nigerians, Omirhobo is asking the court to give interpretation to section 231(1)()3)(4) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
In the suit with no: FHC/ABJ/CS/1019/16, dated December 14, and filed same day, the plaintiff is asking the court to determine whether the qualification, assessment and evaluation necessary for the appointment of the CJN are the exclusive preserve of the FJSC and the NJC.
He also asked the court whether by virtue of section 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution, the president in exercising his powers to appoint the CJN must act on the recommendation of the NJC.
The plaintiff is also asking the court to determine whether by virtue of section 231(3) of the 1999 Constitution, the president as the head of the executive arm of government can hand-pick and or choose who he wants to be the head of the judicial arm of the government and whether the judicial arm is an appendage of the executive arm.
Similarly, he also asked the court to determine whether the CJN and justices of superior courts of records and magistrates as well as other judicial officers in the country hold their offices at the pleasure of the president.
He therefore, urged the court to make declaration that the qualification, assessment and evaluation necessary for the appointment of CJN is the exclusive preserve of the FJSC and the NJC.
He also wants the court to declare that the judicial arm is not an appendage of the executive arm of government and that by virtue of section 231 of the constitution the president must act on the recommendation of the NJC to appoint the CJN.
Similarly, plaintiff wants the court to declare that the president cannot hand-pick or choose who he wants to be the head of the judiciary except as demanded by the constitution.
The plaintiff therefore applied for an order of perpetual injunction retraining the president from abusing the powers conferred on him by the constitution under section 231 and for another order stopping the president from further eroding on the independence of the judiciary as the third arm of government.
Besides, he also wants order of the court compelling the president to uphold the principle of separation of powers and the rule of law as enshrined in the constitution.