Federal High Court, Maitama Abuja, last week heard a case bordering on the alleged marginalization of the South-East in the appointment of Court of Appeal judges.
The suit was filed by the incorporated trustees of Alaigbo Development Foundation.
The defendants are the National Judicial Council, Federal Judicial Service Commission, President of the Court of Appeal, Federal Character Commission and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
Paul Usoro, SAN, represented the first defendant while Y. C. Maikyau SAN stood in for the second and third defendants when the case was called on Wednesday.
In the originating summons filed by the plaintiff, M. N. Ozoaka, he claimed that in the recent appointment of eighteen Appeal Court judges, the relevant authorities gave only one slot to the entire South-East.
The National Judicial Council (NJC) had on March 19 recommended 26 judicial officers for appointment as Justices of the Court of Appeal (18) and Heads of Court.
On April 22, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration approved the appointment of the said justices while extending his “best wishes” to them.
“Having regard to the oath of office of the Defendants to uphold the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, and the true intendment of Section 14 (3) and other the relevant provisions of the Constitution, whether the Defendants can completely ignore, disregard or infringe at will the principles of justice, fairness, equity, due process and federal character in the ongoing exercise of appointment of Justices of the Court of Appeal, particularly with regard to the South East Zone of the federation.
“A declaration that the action of the Defendants, particularly the 1, 2 and 3 Defendants, in allocating one slot only to the South East Zone of the Federation in the on-going exercise of appointment of the Justices of the Court of Appeal is unjustifiable, unfair, inequitable and contrary to the intendment of the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended and ipso facto unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void,” his processes partly read.
Appearing before presiding judge Inyang Ekwo on Wednesday, Ozoaka said although he was in court on 29th of March, he would need time to file a response to the preliminary objections and counter affidavits filed by the first to third defendants.
“Based on what they have served us, I will have to go through their processes so we can respond to what they filed,” he said.
On their part, Usoro SAN and Maikyau noted the interruption caused by the strike action of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria(JUSUN) and agreed for a shift in date for hearing the matter.
Subsequently, presiding judge, Ekwo granted the plaintiff’s prayers but added that because he had ordered accelerated hearing on the matter, all the counsel must be present at the next adjourned date.
“Case is adjourned to 23 June for hearing and on the date of hearing, the case of any defendant absent will be deemed as adopted,” he said.