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Court Fixes Jan. 29 for Hearing Against Bello Over Appointment of Judges in Kogi

A Federal High Court, Abuja has fixed January 29 for hearing of a suit filed by seven senior advocates of Nigeria against Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi and others over his appointment of judges in the state in violation of extant laws.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the suit, which was assigned to Justice James Omotosho, sought a mandatory order restraining the defendants from appointing new judicial officers until there is strict compliance with the laws.

The aggrieved lawyers, who also hail from Kogi, are Yunus Usman, SAN; Jibrin Okutepa, SAN; Patrick Okolo, SAN; Abdullahi Haruna, SAN; Reuben Atabo, SAN; Shaibu Aruwa, SAN and Johnson Usman, SAN.

The plaintiffs, in the originating summons marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/05/2024, sued the National Judicial Council (NJC), Kogi State Judicial Service Commission, Governor of Kogi and Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state as 1st to 4th defendants respectively.

The suit filed Jan. 11 sought a declaration that the selected candidates, including Mrs Amina Yahaya Bello, the governor’s wife, for onward transmission to NJC for appointment as judges was not “totally based on merits, competence, sound knowledge of the law, professional expertise and skill, seniority, fairness, equity and equality.”

They argued that the same was marred by political and ethnic influence contrary to the provisions of Rule 3 (6)(i)-(iv) and Rule 4(4)(a) of the NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of all superior Courts of Records in Nigeria, 2014 and Section 153 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended),

They said it also contravened Paragraph 21(c) Part I, Paragraph 6 (a) and (b) Part II of the Third Schedule to the Constitution (Supra); as well as Section 14 (4)(a) of the Constitution (Supra), among other reliefs.

In the affidavit deposed to by Okolo, they averred that two women were shortlisted from Kogi Central and that one of them was Amina, Gov. Bello’s wife.

They alleged that Amina and other shortlisted candidates did not have the required number of judgments of both trial and appellate courts that qualifies them for appointments as judges of the superior courts of records in Kogi as required by the NJC’s rules.

They also alleged that the State’s Judicial Service Commission was doing the bidding of the Governor.

The Chief Judge of the State, in a letter dated Oct 9, 2023 with Reference Number: CJ/S/1/1X/A/355 to the Lokoja Branch of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and sighted by NAN, said the list was a provisional shortlist of candidates for the appointment of the 10 judicial officers.

They were to be appointed into the State’s High Court, Sharia Court of Appeal and Customary Court of Appeal.

The 29 candidates in the letter include “Badiru Abdulghaniy, Ezema Beatrice, Ibrahim Idenyi, Amina Yahaya Bello, Joseph Sunday Ajesola, Dr. Mohammed Tanko, Badama Kadiri, Umaru Medina, Ibrahim Jubril Oladimeji, Ojoma Rachael Haruna, Zakari Wahab and Halimat Onuka for the High Court of Justice.

The candidates for the Shari’a Court of Appeal are Idris Abdullahi, Abdulwasiu Salaudeen, Muhammad Bello and Mohammed Agaba.

Others are Okino Saidu, Abdulaziz Abdulmali, Ganiyu Adeku,. Yakubu Abbas, Hassan Hussaini, Musa Jibreel, Hussaini Labaran, Salihu Abdullahi, Idrees Abdullahi and Shaibu Aliyu.

Those shortlisted for the Customary Court of Appeal include Musa Onogo Idris, Maryann Oziohu and Shaibu Ozovehe Ebenezer.

NAN reports that the NJC had suspended the process of the appointment of Judges and Kadis into the State’s Judiciary.

The council, which said the development was to maintain a fair and just judicial system.

(NAN)

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