Law News
613 lawyers jostle for 25 vacant judges’ positions

There are 613 lawyers jostling to fill 25 vacant judges’ positions on the Federal High Court bench, The PUNCH has learnt.

The Federal High Court currently has 55 judges in about 38 divisions of the court across the federation.

Our correspondent confirmed that nominations for the vacant positions opened on December 19, 2014 and closed in the first week of February 2015.

This is contained in a letter by the Special Assistant to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Mr. Ambrose Unaeze, in response to a request by The PUNCH for the details of the ongoing process of appointing the new judges.

Unaeze however stated in the letter dated June 29, 2015 that the Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta, declined to supply the names of the 613 candidates, information which he said was exempted from being released to the public under Section 14(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information Act.

The PUNCH had on May 15, 2015 exclusively reported that the Federal High Court had commenced the process of appointing 25 judges.

Our correspondent learnt from sources that are familiar with the appointment process that Justice Auta is expected to conduct an interview to shortlist and forward 100 names among the 613 nominees to the Federal Judicial Service Commission.

The FJSC will also conduct further interview to prune down the number from 100 to 50 and forward the names of the successful applicants to the National Judicial Council.

At the end, the NJC will put the 50 nominees through further processes and select 25 who would be nominated to President Muhammadu Buhari for appointment.

The response of Justice Auta to this newspaper’s letter showed that the nomination of the 613 lawyers jostling for the judicial positions were received upon request from the Attorney-General of the Federation, President of the Nigerian Bar Association and heads of the various superior courts of record, to put forward the names of lawyers considered fit for the positions.

The courts whose heads were requested to nominate candidates for the judicial positions comprised the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, Federal Capital Territory High Court, the National Industrial Court, as well as high courts, Customary Court of Appeal and the Sharia Court of Appeal of the 36 states of the federation.

Attached to the response of the court management to The PUNCH’s request was a copy of a letter dated November 24, 2014 by Justice Auta, seeking an approval to commence the appointment process from the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Chairman of the National Judicial Council, Justice Mohammed, who was then holding both offices in acting capacities.

The PUNCH’s request for the information made under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act was contained in a letter dated May 19, 2015 and addressed to the Secretary, Federal Judicial Service Commission.

The FJSC had redirected the request to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta.

According to Auta, in his letter to the CJN and Chairman of the NJC, the need to appoint more judges for the Federal High Court was informed by the provisions of the FHC (amendment) Act 2013 which increased the number of judges of the court from 50 to 100.

He added that by the end of 2014 a total of 15 judges had left the bench of the Federal High Court through retirement, elevation and death.

The letter added, “In this regard, there is the compelling need to fill the existing gap and vacancies occasioned by the circumstances enumerated above i.e. retirement, elevation and death.”

 

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