The Federal High Court in Abuja ruled on Wednesday that the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), acted in contravention of the law when he sent the names of 11 candidates recommended to him by the National Judicial Council for appointment as judges of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory to the Senate for screening and confirmation.
Justice Inyang Ekwo made the pronouncement in a suit filed by an Abuja-based lawyer, Oladimeji Ekengba, contending that the forwarding of the names of the 11 nominees by Buhari to the Senate was in breach of section 256(2) of the Nigerian Constitution.
Buhari had, without explanation, picked 11 names from among the 33 recommended to him in April this year by the NJC for appointment as FCT High Court judges.
He forwarded the 11 names to the Senate for screening, but the upper legislative chamber had declined to act on the President’s list having admitted that it had no role to play in the appointment of FCT judges.
The 11 judges have since been sworn in by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad.
Aside from faulting the sending of the names of 11 of the candidates to the Senate, Ekengba, in his suit, also contended that the President lacked the power to pick and choose whom among the candidates to appoint as judges recommended by the NJC.
He sought among other prayers, an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Senate from screening and confirming the candidates as judges of the FCT High Court.
In his judgment on Wednesday, Justice Inyag Ekwo agreed with the plaintiff that Buhari acted in contravention of the provision of Section 256(2) of the Constitution by forwarding the 11 names to the Senate.
The judge also agreed with the plaintiff that only the appointment of a head of court, like the Chief Judge, required Senate confirmation.
He, however, ruled that the contravention of the law by Buhari did not affect the judges’ inauguration.
The suit had the Senate and the Senate President joined as the 3rd and 4th defendants respectively.
Also joined as defendants are Buhari, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, the Clerk of the Senate, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, and the National Judicial Council, as the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 7th defendants, respectively.