The National Judicial Council has denied media reports that it recommended 14 judges for approval as justices of the Court of Appeal, without including a single judge from the South-east.
The chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, through a spokesperson, also reacted to the report.
In a statement on Monday night by the NJC’ s Director of information, Soji Oye, the council distanced itself from the said list, describing the report as ‘fake news’.
It, however, confirmed an ongoing process for the appointment of new judges for the Appeal Court.
Sahara Reporters had on Monday published a list of 14 new justices of the Appeal Court who, according to the paper, were recommended for appointment by the NJC, without any inclusion of judges from the South-east.
The paper further said the list of judges, which was split into two categories; namely the priority and reserved list, had the wife of the NBA President, Mahmoud Mohammed, and that of a former President of the Bar, Bayo Ojo, in the priority list. It added that other judges on the priority list include I. G. Abundaga from Nasarawa State, M. B. Idris from Niger State and A. M. Talba from Adamawa State.
“Others are Justices Kadi M. M. Alkali from Adamawa State, A. I. Adenyangtso from Taraba, A. S. Umar and O. Z. Senchi, both from Kebbi, A. M. Lamido from Sokoto, B. B. Aliyu from Zamfara, Ebowei Tobi, son of the late Justice Niki E. Tobi from Delta State and G.O. Kolawole from Osun State.
“Names on the reserved list include Justices O. Itodo (Benue), M. A. Abdul Gafar (Kwara), D. D. Adeck (Nasarawa) D. G. Mann (Plateau) D. G. Goji (Adamawa) and Kadi U. B. Umar (Adamawa). Others are Justices Y. A. Bashir (Taraba), Z. B. Abubakar (Kebbi), I. M. Sani (Kaduna), F. L. Adamu (Kano), I. B. Ahmed (Katsina), M Y Uftsha’u (Zamfara), P. O. Affen (Bayelsa) and O. A. Ipaye (Osun),” the medium reported.
But reacting to the publication, Mr. Oye urged Nigerians to discountenance the report.
“The attention of the National Judicial Council has been drawn to a purported list of Judges newly appointed to the Court of Appeal being circulated in public space and tragically reported as news item by credible news outlets.
“The Council wishes to dissociate itself completely from the said list as nothing of such emanated from it. Members of the public are also advised to discountenance the said list which is nothing but a figment of the imagination of the author (s).”
“In the days ahead, the council will speak more on the ongoing process for the appointment of Judges into different Cadre of the Nigerian Judiciary,” Mr. Oye said in a brief statement to PREMIUM TIMES on Friday night.
Also speaking on the development, Awassam Bassey, the Senior Special Assistant to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the NJC, Walter Onnoghen, said the criteria for selection of judges follows a quota system, based on the zone for which a vacant position exists.
“I’m not holding brief for the NJC or the interview panels, neither am I confirming the authenticity or otherwise of the list circulating online, but it is pertinent to clarify that appointment to the Court of Appeal is by quota. Vacancies exist when Justices die, retire or are promoted to the Supreme Court. In such situations, applications are called from the zone of the previous occupant to replace him or her.
“Recently, there have been series of Justices in the Supreme Court who retired from the North, including the two previous Chief Justices of Nigeria, Hon Justice Aloma Mukhtar GCON and Hon Justice Mahmud Mohammed GCON.
Also one of the Justices from Sokoto State and another from Kaduna State died at the stampede that occurred during pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia a couple of years back. To fill those vacancies in the Supreme Court, the equivalent number of Justices were elevated from the Court of Appeal, including Hon Justices Amina Adamu Augie CON, Ejembi Eko, Paul Adamu Galinje, and Sidi Dauda Bage, among others.
“Following these departures, vacancies were advertised and, in tandem with the quota system, it is expected that appointment to the vacant positions would come from the zones of their previous occupants.
“The Court of Appeal currently has 76 serving Justices from the original 85 appointed in the 16 Divisions of the Court spread across the six geopolitical zones of the country,” Mr. Bassey said in a text message to PREMIUM TIMES.