NJC Recommends FCT Minister’s Wife, 21 Others for Elevation to Appeal Court 

*Appoints Ariwoola, Wike’s in-laws, 84 others as judges of federal, state high courts

*To probe eight judges for misconduct, bars two from promotion 

Alex Enumah in Abuja 

Justice Suzette Eberechi Wike, wife of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT) and former Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, was among 22 successful candidates recommended by the National Judicial Council (NJC) for appointment as Justices of the Court of Appeal.

Similarly, the NJC also recommended for appointment as judges, an in-law of the FCT Minister, Lesley Nkesi Belema Wike and Victoria Oluwakemi Ariwoola, daughter-in-law of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.

Recall that a former boss of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof Chidi Odinkalu, had in March this year, accused the judiciary of nepotism over the listing of Nyesom Wike’s in-law and family members of some justices as potential federal high court judges.

Odinkalu, who had posted on his tweeter handle (now X), stated that, “For instance, Governor Bako Lalong appointed No. 7, Buetnaan, the daughter of the president of the Court of Appeal, a judge of the High Court of Plateau State in 2021. I presume this is a transfer, but if it is, why is it being reported as a new appointment?

“Governor Nyesom Wike appointed No. 11, his in-law, a Senior Magistrate in Rivers State last year. I guess the Chief Justice of the FCT High Court is fulfilling his own side of the bargains he reached when he visited Wike last year…?

“On this list you have a daughter of the former Chief Justice of the FCT High Court (No. 5, Zamfara) and a daughter of the current Chief Justice of the FCT High Court (No. 9, Kogi);

“You also have on this list a daughter-in-law of the current Chief Justice of Nigeria, (No. 10, Oyo); and a daughter of his immediate predecessor (No. 12, Bauchi).

Besides Odinkalu, a civil rights group had also in last April embarked on a protest while accusing the CJN of abuse of office and favouritism.

The group had claimed that the CJN breached Rule 11 (iv) and other extant provisions of the Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, when he appointed his son, Olukayode Ariwoola Junior as a Judge of the Federal High Court and nominated his daughter in-law, Oluwakemi Victoria Ariwoola as a Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court.

The group, Civil Society Consortium on Judicial Accountability (CSCJA), during the protest in Abuja, demanded the resignation of the CJN, arguing that the action underscores the importance of judicial accountability and impartiality in maintaining the integrity and trustworthiness of the legal system. 

Coordinator of the group, Mr Martin Obono, had Said that, “the CJN’s appointments have raised serious concerns about potential conflicts of interest and the erosion of public confidence in the judiciary”. 

Obono had maintained that, “It is imperative that the judiciary remains free from personal bias and favouritism to safeguard the principles of justice.” 

Besides Wike’s wife, others in the 22-man NJC list for elevation to the appellate court include Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, Justice Donatus Okorowo, both of the Federal High Court and Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of the FCT High Court.

This was disclosed in a statement from the NJC signed by the Director, Information, Mr Soji Oye.

“Council at the Meeting also considered the recommendation of its Interview Committee on Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Record in Nigeria and resolved to recommend the under-listed 86 Judicial Officers for appointment to the Court of Appeal, High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Sharia Courts of Appeal and Customary Courts of Appeal of States in Nigeria”, the statement added.

Meanwhile, the statement noted that the NJC at the meeting considered two reports of its two Preliminary Complaints Assessment Committees that filtered 35 petitions written against Judges of the Federal and State High Courts and decided to empanel eight committees to further investigate the petitions that were found meritorious by the Committees.

However, the statement added that the NJC issued warning letters to three judges and barred two of them from elevation to higher bench for a period.

“The National Judicial Council under the Chairmanship of Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, GCON, at its plenary of 105th Meeting held on May 15&16, 2024, resolved to issue warning letters to Justice Inyang E. Ekwo of the Federal High Court and Hon. Justice G. B. Brikins-Okolosi of Delta State High Court”. 

According to the statement, Justice Ekwo was warned for abuse of discretionary power of a Judge by wrongly granting an ex parte order in Suit No FHC/ABJ/C/626/2023 Juliet Ebere Nwadi Gbaka & 2 Ors V Seplat Energy Plc & 12 Ors.

“The Hon Judge is also barred from being elevated to a higher Bench for a period of two years.

“Justice G. B. Brikins-Okolosi of Delta State High Court is also issued a warning for failure to deliver judgement within stipulated period in Joseph Anene Okafor Vs Skye Bank, Suit No A/94/2010 after parties had filed and adopted their final Written Addresses. Justice G. B. Brikins-Okolosi will also not be elevated to a higher Bench for a period of three years.Council cautioned Hon.

 “Justice Amina Shehu of Yobe State High Court for issuing Writ of Possession Conferring Title on the Defendant in Suit No YBS/HC/NNR/1cv/2020 when there was no subsisting judgement of any Court to enable His Lordship issue the Writ”, the statement added.

While 12 persons were recommended as judges of the FCT High Court, seven were appointed for Imo; six for Bauchi, three for Taraba and 13 for Lagos States’ High Courts.

Similarly, Kogi had four, while Jigawa has two persons appointed as high court judges.

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