24 April 2019

Nigeria: Lawyer Drags Buhari, National Assembly, Others to Court Over Acting CJN

Abuja — A human rights lawyer, Chief Malcom Omirhobo, has dragged President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly and five others to a Federal High Court over the appointment of Justice Tanko Muhammad as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).

Omirhobo in the suit wants the court to stop the appointment of Muhammad as substantive CJN on the alleged grounds that Justice Muhammad "is not proper and fit" to be recommended for the office of CJN, having accepted the appointment of President Buhari to act as CJN last January without being recommended by the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Other defendants in the suit include the NJC, the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), the Acting CJN, the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Attorney General of the Federation.

The plaintiff in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/420/2019, is praying the court to declare that the Acting CJN, Justice Muhammad, having made himself available as a tool that was used in the violation of the Constitution, especially with regards to the alleged illegal removal of the former CJN, is therefore not a proper and fit person to be recommended for appointment to head the judiciary.

The rights activist further prayed the court to declare that the suspension and/or removal of a CJN from office, is a shared responsibility of the 1st Defendant (NJC), the 5th defendant (Buhari) and 7th Defendant (National Assembly).

He argued that President Buhari lacked the constitutional powers to unilaterally suspend and/or the remove a sitting CJN from office, as was done in the case of Onnoghen.

Besides, he prayed the court to declare that by combined interpretation of Sections 1(1 )(2), 231(4), 292(1)(a)(i)(b), 153(1)(i), 158(1) and paragraph 21 (a)(b) of Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, "it is unlawful and undemocratic for the 4th and 5th Defendants (federal government and President Buhari), to declare the office of the CJN vacant on January 25, 2019 and consequently appoint and swear in the 3rd Defendant as the acting CJN".

Omirhobo therefore asked for an order of court restraining the National Assembly from confirming any appointment of Justice Muhammad as the substantive CJN.

Aside praying the court to bar President Buhari from appointing Justice Muhammad as the substantive CJN, the Plaintiff, in a 65-paragraph affidavit he filed in support of the suit, stressed that unless restrained by the court, the Executive Arm of Government would continue to violate the extant provisions of the Constitution and sanctity of the judiciary.

The suit has been assigned to Justice Iyang Ekwo, but no date has been fixed for hearing.

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