The Federal Judicial Service Commission may have again excluded lawyers, including Senior Advocates of Nigeria, from its ongoing recruitment process to fill six Supreme Court vacancies, The YGist’s investigation has revealed.
A total of 23 lawyers, including eight SANs, applied for the position.
According to documents obtained by our correspondent on Saturday, only judges of the Court of Appeal made the provisional shortlist, despite that the position was open to legal practitioners with at least 15 years post-call experience, as stipulated by Section 231(3) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
One of the documents showed that 29 judges of the Court of Appeal, drawn from five geopolitical zones, made the list. The North-Central had five; North-West, five; South-South, five; South-West, five while the South-East had the highest, with nine candidates.
As in the obtained document, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, who also serves as Chairman of the FJSC, requested the nomination of suitable candidates for consideration “to fill six present and potential vacancies at the Supreme Court” in a January 19, 2022 letter to critical stakeholders, including the Nigerian Bar Association.
Meanwhile, in response to the CJN’s request, the NBA subsequently forwarded the names of the 23 lawyers who expressed interest in being called to the bench of the apex court to the FJSC for consideration.
The applicants from the bar included Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN); Mrs Joy Okungbowa (SAN); Mrs Miannaya Essien (SAN); Mr Chukwugekwu Ezenwa (SAN); Mr Itoyah Otaru (SAN); Mr Edwin Obiorah (SAN); Mr Abugu Oromafunu (SAN) and Mr Mahmud Adesina (SAN).
Others were Mr Ogbemudia Omoregie; Mr Stanley Princewill; Mr Udochukwu Ezeani; Mr Ayoola Akande; Mr Kadir Temim; Mr Ujah Oyiwona; Mr Omokhuwa Giwa; Mr Achara Ezekwesiri; Mr Adolor Onorieukuhakpo; Mr Ademola Alabi; Mr Nuraddeen Ayagi; Mr Salisu Shuaibu; Mr Enya Nwocha; Mr Ademi-Akpeto Awolowo and Mr Adelekan Ajayi.
However, in a latest development, another letter, dated June 13, by the Chairman of the NBA Judiciary Committee, Dr Babatunde Ajibade (SAN), to his colleagues showed that only judges of the Court of Appeal were shortlisted while all the lawyers were sidelined, which is a continuation of the tradition of elevating only Appeal Court judges to the apex court.
From the North-Central, the names of the judges who made the provisional shortlist include Justices Jummai Sankey, Stephen Adah, Sa’idu Hussain, Ridwan Abdullahi and Mohammed Idris.
In the North-West, the shortlisted judges include Justices Ali Gumel, Tani Hassan, Mohammed Shuaibu, Jamilu Tukur and Balkisu Aliyu.
From the South-East, the successful applicants are Justices Uzoamaka Ndukwe-Anyanwu, Chidiebere Uwa, Chioma Nwosu-Iheme, Theresa Orji-Abadua, Obande Ogbuinya, Uchechukwu Onyemenam, Onyekachi Otisi, Ugochukwu Ogakwu and Kenneth Amadi.
In the South-South geopolitical zone, Justices Moore Adumein, Biobele Georgewill, Frederick Oho, Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo and Ebiowei Tobi made the list.
In the South-West, Justices Oyebisi Omoleye, Tunde Omotoye, Habeeb Abiru, Peter Olabisi Ige and Joseph Olubunmi Kayode Oyewole made the list.
The letter asked lawyers who had comments and/or reservations over their suitability or otherwise to send them to the association’s national secretariat no later than Monday, June 27, 2022.
‘NBA’ll ask questions’
In response to the development and the fact that no lawyer made the provisional list again, the NBA’s National Publicity Secretary, Dr Rapulu Nduka, told our correspondent on Saturday that it was unfortunate that lawyers were asked to indicate interest but none were shortlisted.
He added, “We intend to ask more questions on why no lawyer was shortlisted, because we don’t want to speculate. Prior to this time, it’s been for judges to rise through the cadre to the Supreme Court bench and there have been arguments either way.
“The constitution does not say that only judges from the Court of Appeal should go to the Supreme Court. The constitution says once you have 15 years post-call experience, you are qualified to be a Supreme Court judge, but when you look at the convention; the way things are being done, there may be reasons why this has not been done all this while.
“The other side to it is that lawyers who come in from practice are most times people who have shown themselves to be good practitioners. That would also inject some balance into the system. Definitely, somebody who is in the field of practice will see things from another perspective.
“The bottom line is that we want to ask more questions to know why that happened. Like I said, I don’t want to speculate.”
Nduka expressed hope that lawyers would someday be called to the Supreme Court bench or that of the Appeal Court, given the balance it would create.