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Monday, 10 October 2016

See NJC next action over DSS raids

Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

The National Judicial Council will on Tuesday hold an emergency session, The PUNCH learnt on Sunday.

It was learnt that the NJC originally scheduled the meeting solely to consider the candidate most suitable for appointment as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria from the list forwarded to it by the Federal Judicial Service Commission last week.

But following the raids on the houses of some judicial officers by the men of the Department of State Services over the weekend, it was learnt that the outgoing CJN and the Chairman of both the NJC and FJSC, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, directed that the issue be included on the agenda of the scheduled emergency meeting.

The DSS, at the end of the operations, which lasted at least 12 hours between Friday night and Saturday morning, arrested Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro, both of the Supreme Court, as well as Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

The security operatives also searched the house of another judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, but he was not arrested.

A senior officer of the security agency, Mr. Abdullahi Garba, who spoke with journalists in Abuja after the operations on Saturday, said that a large amount including foreign/local currencies had been recovered from three of the judges. He gave the breakdown of these to include: N93,558,000.00, $530,087, £25,970, and €5,680 (a total of over N270m).

In Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, the raid started in the early hours of Saturday when scores of DSS agents besieged the house of a Federal High Court judge at No. 35, Forces Avenue.

The CJN was said to have been embarrassed by the developments, and immediately put a call through to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami.

A source told our correspondent on Sunday that, “The CJN decided that the NJC would take a position on the issue at the emergency meeting of the NJC already scheduled to hold on Tuesday for the consideration of the next CJN.”

The Federal Judicial Service Council met last Wednesday and concluded its part of the ongoing process of appointing a successor to the outgoing CJN, The PUNCH has learnt.

At the end of its meeting presided over by its chairman, who is the incumbent CJN, the commission nominated the next three most senior Justices of the Supreme Court to the National Judicial Council.

Credible judiciary sources told our correspondent that Justice Walter Onnoghen, who is the most favoured by the tradition of succession arrangement in the judiciary – being the current second in rank to the CJN – topped the FJSC’s list of nominees.

Justice Onnoghen was born in 1950 at Okurike in Biase Local Government Area of Cross River State, and was appointed to the Supreme Court bench in 2005.

The next on the list was JusticeTanko Muhammad who was born on December 31, 1953 at Doguwa-Giade, Giade Local Government Area of Bauchi State.

Justice Muhammad was appointed to the apex court bench on January 7, 2007.

The third on the list was Justice Suleiman Galadima, who was born on October in 1946 in Nasarawa State.

Justice Galadima was appointed to the Supreme Court bench in 2010.

Justice Mohammed, who was born on November 10, 1946, will leave office on November 10, 2016, when he will attain the mandatory 70 years retirement age.

The PUNCH learnt that the NJC, which met only last week Thursday  when it recommended three judges for sanction, would not adhere to the official three-month interval before convening its next meeting to avoid a situation that could lead to a vacuum in the office of the CJN.

Our correspondent gathered that the NJC had scheduled to meet any moment from the time the Federal Judicial Service Commission completes its own part of the appointment process.

Going by tradition and the NJC rules, the CJN commences the process of appointment of his successor by sending the names of the four most senior Justices of the Supreme Court after him to the FJSC.

Seniority of justices is by dates of appointment to the apex court bench.

The FJSC would later conduct interviews and other appointment procedures for the four justices.

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