Justice Tsammani, 21 others shortlisted for elevation to Supreme Court - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Thursday, November 16, 2023

Justice Tsammani, 21 others shortlisted for elevation to Supreme Court

The Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC, has shortlisted 22 Justices of the Court of Appeal for elevation to the Supreme Court bench.

Among judicial officers that the legal body, in the list it has forwarded to the National Judicial Council, NJC, found worthy to be promoted to the apex court, included Justice Haruna Tsammani, who led the panel that affirmed the election of President Bola Tinubu.

Specifically, whereas six Justices were nominated from the North-Central region, the South-West and South-South regions got two nominees each.

Likewise, while six Justices were okayed from the South-East region, the North-East got two nominees in the list that was forwarded to the NJC on Thursday. 

The development came barely four days after President Tinubu pleaded for qualified, experienced and diligent private legal practitioners to be appointed to both the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court bench.

Tinubu had in an address he presented at the opening session of the 2023 All Nigerian Judges Conference of the Superior Courts, which held last Monday, maintained that selecting qualified lawyers to fill the vacant seats on the bench of the two superior courts, would further strengthen the nation's judiciary.

"I seize this opportunity to make one sentence on the appointment of private legal practitioners into our appellate courts. 

"Considering the constitutional provisions in practice in other jurisdictions, I am of the strong view that in order to further strengthen our appleate court, qualified, experienced and diligent private legal practioners should be considered for apointment to both the Appeal and Supreme Court, as the nation will benefit from this," President Tinubu argued.

It will be recalled that a retiring justice of the apex court, Musa Dattijo Muhammad, had in a speech he delivered at a valedictory ceremony that was organised in his honour on October 27, alleged that the refusal to fill the vacant seats on the Supreme Court bench, was deliberate, blaming it on "absolute powers vested in the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria." 

He decried that both the North-Central and the South-East regions, had no Justice on the apex court bench.

"My lord Hon. Justice Ejembi Eko JSC who also represented the zone (North- Central) retired on 23rd of May, 2022. It has been a year and five months now. There has not been any replacement.

"With the passing of my lord, Hon. Justice Chima Centus Nweze, JSC on 29th July 2023, the South East no longer has any presence at the Supreme Court. My lord, Hon. Justice Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta JSC died on 7th March 2021. There has not been any appointment in his stead for the South East.

"As it stands, only four geo-political regions- the South-West, South-South, North-West and North-East are represented in the Supreme Court. 

"While the South-South and North-East have two serving justices, the North-West and South-West are fully represented with three each.

"Appropriate steps could have been taken since to fill outstanding vacancies in the apex court. Why have these steps not been timeously taken?

"It is evident that the decision not to fill the vacancies in the court is deliberate. It is all about the absolute powers vested in the office of the CJN and the responsible exercise of same," the retiring jurist added.

Meanwhile, the FJSC graded the Justices it has nominated for elevation to the apex court bench, who were drawn from the various geo-political zones, as "priority" and "reserve".

Those that made the list, are: South-East; Hon. Justice Nwaoma Uwa (Abia State)-Priority; Hon. Justice Onyekachi Otisi (Abia State)- Reserve.

"Hon Justice Obande Ogbuinya (Ebonyi State)-Priority; Hon. Justice Theresa Orji-Abadua (Imo State)- Reserve.

"Hon. Justice Anthony Ogakwu (Enugu State)-Priority; Hon. Justice Chioma Nwosu-lheme (Imo State)-Reserve.

"South- South: Hon. Justice Moore Adumein (Bayelsa State)-Priority; Hon. Justice Biobele Georgewill (Rivers State)-Reserve.

"South-West: Hon. Justice Adewale Abiru (Lagos State)-Priority; Hon Justice Olubunmi Oyewole (Osun State)-Reserve.

"North- Central: Hon. Jummai Sankey (Plateau State)-Priority; Hon. Justice Muhammad Ibrahim Sirajo (Plateau)-Reserve; Hon. Justice Stephen Adah (Kogi State)-Priority;  Hon. Justice Ridman Maiwada Abdullahi (Nassarawa State) -Reserve; Hon. Justice Baba Idris (Niger State)-Priority; Hon Justice Joseph Ikyegh (Benue State)-Reserve.

"North- East: Hon. Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani (Bauchi State)-Priority; Hon. Justice Abubakar Talba (Adamawa State).

"North-West: "Hon. Justice Muhammad Lawal Shuaibu (Jigawa State)-Priority; Hon Justice Bello Aliyu (Zamfara State) -Reserve; Hon. Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar (Kebbi State)-Priority and Hon. Justice Abdullahi Mahmud Bayero (Kano State)-Reserve."

Justice Dattijo's retirement had depleted the apex court bench to only 10 Justices.

Remarkably, the number of justices of the court unprecedentedly rose to 20 in November 2020, after President Muhammadu Buhari okayed the elevation of eight justices at a go.

Their appointment had sparked hope that the apex court would for the first time in history, attain the full complement of 21 justices as prescribed by Section 230 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

By the combined provisions of paragraphs 13 (a) & 21 (a) of the 3rd Schedule Part 1, of the Constitution, the NJC, upon the advice of the FJSC, has the statutory power to nominate and recommend the appointment of justices of the Supreme Court to President Tinubu.

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