Federal High Court Dismisses Suit Questioning Appointment of Judges in Kogi

Federal court dismisses lawsuit by senior lawyers challenging judges' appointments in Kogi, citing lack of legal standing and merit. Highlights role of National Judicial Council in judicial appointments and representation of marginalized groups.

Trim Correspondents
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Federal High Court Dismisses Suit Questioning Appointment of Judges in Kogi

Federal High Court Dismisses Suit Questioning Appointment of Judges in Kogi

The Federal High Court in Abuja has rejected a lawsuit filed by seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) questioning the alleged unlawful appointment of judges in Kogi State. Justice James Omotosho, in his judgment, held that the plaintiffs lacked the legal standing (locus standi) to institute the action and that the suit itself lacked merit.

The seven SANs - Yunus Usman, Jibrin Okutepa, Patrick Okolo, Abdullahi Haruna, Reuben Atabo, Shaibu Aruwa, and Johnson Usman - had sued the National Judicial Council (NJC), Kogi State Judicial Service Commission, the Governor of Kogi, and the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. They sought a mandatory order restraining the defendants from appointing new judicial officers until there was strict adherence with the laws.

The plaintiffs argued that the selection of candidates for appointment as judges in Kogi State was not based solely on merit, competence, knowledge of the law, professional expertise, and other criteria. They alleged that the process was influenced by political and ethnic considerations.

However, the court ruled that the plaintiffs, despite being indigenes of Kogi State, could not represent the interests of the people of Okun origin and Ibaji Local Government Area, who were the ones allegedly affected by the appointments. The court found that the plaintiffs were not directly affected by the alleged actions of the defendants and were not advocating for the marginalized groups.

The court also noted that the plaintiffs, as members of the Nigerian Bar Association, were already represented in the NJC and should have exhausted that avenue before filing the suit. The judge stated that the proper course of action would have been to bring the complaints to the attention of the NJC through the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, as the NJC is responsible for the recommendation of judges based on the advice of the Kogi State Judicial Service Committee.

Why this matters: The dismissal of the suit highlights the importance of legal standing in challenging judicial appointments and the role of the National Judicial Council in the process. It also raises questions about the representation of marginalized groups in such cases.

The court further held that the plaintiffs' allegations of bias against the defendants were not supported by the facts presented. Justice Omotosho noted that the NJC has unfettered discretion and powers in recommending persons to be appointed as judges under the Constitution. "Even if the plaintiffs had locus standi, I question whether instituting the action was the right course of action," the judge stated in his ruling.

Key Takeaways

  • Federal High Court in Abuja dismissed lawsuit by 7 SANs on Kogi judges' appointment.
  • Plaintiffs lacked legal standing to represent interests of affected groups, court ruled.
  • NJC has discretion in recommending judges, court said, even if plaintiffs had standing.
  • Plaintiffs failed to exhaust NBA/NJC channels before filing suit, court observed.
  • Dismissal highlights importance of legal standing in challenging judicial appointments.