An Igbo socio-cultural group, on Monday, called on a Federal High Court, Abuja, to stop the ongoing appointment of justices of the Court of Appeal over an alleged lopsidedness of the exercise.
The group; the Incorporated Trustees of Alaigbo Development Foundation, urged Justice Inyang Ekwo to restrain the defendants from continuing the exercise pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
The plaintiff, in an originating summons marked FHC/ABJ/CS/347/20 dated March 15 and filed March 16 by their lawyer, Max Ozoaka, is suing the National Judicial Council (NJC), Federal Judicial Service Commission, President of the Court of Appeal, Federal Character Commission (FCC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as 1st to 5th defendants respectively.
The News Agency of Nigeria observes that the plaintiff is seeking a court order compelling the defendants to replace the three vacancies in the South East slots by three new justices from the zone.
The group, in the application, asked the court to determine that “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.
“Having regard to the principles of equity and good conscience and the true intendment and purpose of the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, is the South East Zone of the Federation not entitled in the ongoing exercise of appointment of justices of the Court of Appeal to 3 (three) new slots in the bench of the Court in direct replacement of the vacancies occasioned and existing in the bench of the court arising from the elevation, retirement and death of three justices of the court from that zone.”
The plaintiff, who averred that if the answers to the above questions are in its favour, urged the court to declare the action of the defendants, particularly the 1st, 2nd and 3rd, in allocating one slot only to the South East Zone in the ongoing exercise as “unjustifiable, unfair, inequitable and contrary to the true intendment of the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
“A declaration that the South East Zone is entitled to three new slots in the ongoing exercise of appointment of the justices of the Court of Appeal in direct replacement or filling of the vacancies in the bench of the Court of Appeal currently existing in the South East Zone which arose from the elevation, retirement and death of three justices of the Court from the Zone.
“An order of the Honourable Court restraining the defendants, especially the 1st 2nd and 3rd defendants from continuing the ongoing exercise of appointment of justices of the Court of Appeal unless and until the South East Zone is accorded its rightful entitlement in the exercise,” among others.
However, when the matter was called, only the 3rd defendant (Appeal Court President) counsel, Y. C. Maikyau, SAN, was in court besides the plaintiff lawyer.
Although Ozoaka told the court that all the defendants were served with the processes through the court bailiff, the prove of service were not in the court file.
Justice Ekwo, who held that the case ought to be heard expeditiously, ordered an abridgment of time within which the matter could be determined.
He also directed that the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th defendants should be served with the hearing notices and should files their processes within five days of receiving the notice.
The judge adjourned the matter until April 8 for hearing.