By Tobi Soniyi
About three hundred private legal practitioners and magistrates have been shortlisted for the second stage of the recruitment exercise by the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) to fill ten vacancies in the Federal High Court (FHC).
The shortlisted candidates, who were selected from the six geopolitical zones in the country, were pruned from a list of close to one thousand lawyers who initially applied for the openings at the FHC.
Sources in the judiciary confirmed that the 300 candidates will be interviewed by the FJSC in July and are slated to go through another round of interviews at the National Judicial Council (NJC) in August, following which successful candidates will be announced and sworn-in in September.
A letter to the shortlisted candidates which was signed by Registrar II, Taiwo Akapo informing them of their selection, was obtained exclusively by THISDAY
Although the recruitment exercise is still at the early stages, the letter directed the candidates to proceed to the Department of State Services (DSS) for clearance after Sallah holiday.
It also instructed them to furnish the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Ibrahim Auta, with the relevant court documents as a prerequisite for their appointment to the ten posts in the FHC.
Magistrates are required to submit five judgments delivered in contested cases two years preceding the appointment exercise, while legal practitioners must submit six judgments obtained in contested cases five years preceding the appointment exercise.
The letter, however, exempted court registrars and qualified lawyers serving or working in government departments and ministries and who had been shortlisted from presenting any cases.
The candidates are required also to obtain the NJC Form A from the Chief Judge’s chambers.
FHC last month had announced plans to recruit ten additional judges in order to address the challenges posed by the shortage of judges.
Accordingly, Auta sent a notice to all Heads of Courts and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) informing them of the decision to appoint new high court judges.
The notice, a copy of which was obtained by THISDAY read: “I write to inform Your Lordships, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and all Heads of Courts that the Federal High Court will soon commence consideration of candidates for possible appointments as judges of the Federal High Court.
“I therefore invite Your Lordships, the Attorney-General of the Federation and all Heads of Courts to kindly recommend any fit and proper legal practitioners in Nigeria for consideration for appointment as judges of the Federal High Court.
“Your Lordships are to attach the candidates curriculum vitae and your comments on the candidates stating their state, local government and senatorial districts.
“Your recommendations should reach my chambers latest by 1st of May, 2017.”
The court had in the past blamed delays in the determination of cases on the paucity of judges.
The court, initially designated the Federal Revenue Court, was established by the Federal Revenue Act, 1973.
It was renamed the Federal High Court by Section 228(1) and 230(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979.
As a premier court of first instance, the FHC has recorded impressive growth since its inception in 1973 and has become an important pillar amongst the courts in the Federal Judiciary.
From its pioneering five judges, the court now has 69 judges and 36 judicial divisions spread across the country.