Acting CJN’s Appointment: Court Orders Service on Buhari, NJC, Others

Justice Tanko Muhammad

Orders release of Adeleke’s international passport

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the service on President Muhammadu Buhari and six others, the court processes of a suit against the appointment of Justice Tanko Muhammad as acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).

The judge gave the order yesterday shortly after a human rights lawyer, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, argued his exparte application, seeking to stop the appointment of Muhammad as substantive CJN.

Justice Ekwo also ordered the release of the international passport of Senator Ademola Adeleke to enable him travel to the United States of America (USA) for medical check-up.

The Board of Incorporated Trustees of Malcolm Omirhobo Foundation had, in an exparte motion filed on April 15, 2019, asked the court to stop Justice Muhammad’s appointment as CJN, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed by the foundation.

The plaintiff also asked for an order of interim injunction restraining the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (7th defendant) from confirming the appointment of Justice Muhammad, pending the determination of the substantive suit challenging his appointment.

Justice Ekwo, in a ruling on the exparte application however, ordered the plaintiff to put the defendants on notice, stressing that “none of the prayers made on this motion exparte can be granted in the absence of the defendants.’’

Defendants in the suit to be served with the hearing notice include, the National Judicial Council (NJC), the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), Justice Muhammad, the Federal Government of Nigeria, President Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), and the Senate.

Justice Ekwo, in addition ordered Buhari and the other defendants to upon receipt of the process, appear before the court within seven days to show cause why the application of the plaintiff should not be granted.

Justice Ekwo then adjourned till May 13, 2019, for the defendants to appear in court to show cause.

The plaintiff in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/420/2019, prayed the court to declare that the Acting CJN, Justice Muhammad, having made himself available as a tool that was used in the violation of the constitution, especially with regards to the alleged illegal removal of the former CJN, is therefore not a proper and fit person to be recommended for appointment to head the judiciary.

The rights activist further prayed the court to declare that the suspension and/or removal of a CJN from office, is a shared responsibility of the 1st Defendant (NJC), the 5th defendant (Buhari), and 7th Defendant (National Assembly).

He argued that President Buhari lacked the constitutional powers to unilaterally suspend and/or remove a sitting CJN from office, as was done in the case of Justice Walter Onnoghen.

Besides, he prayed the court to declare that by combined interpretation of sections 1(1 )(2), 231(4), 292(1)(a)(i)(b), 153(1)(i), 158(1) and paragraph 21 (a)(b) of Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, “it is unlawful and undemocratic for the 4th and 5th Defendants (federal government and President Buhari), to declare the office of the CJN vacant on January 25, 2019 and consequently appoint and swear in the 3rd Defendant as the acting CJN.

In another development, Justice Ekwo also ordered the release of the international passport of Senator Ademola Adeleke to enable him travel to the United States of America (USA) for medical check-up.

Granting the order in an exparte application filed on April 30, 2019 by the senator, the judge directed the Deputy Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to release Adeleke’s travel documents to enable him travel abroad between the period of May 2nd and 9th, 2019.