A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has given President Muhammadu Buhari, the Senate and the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, 14 days to respond to a suit challenging the appointment of Justice Tanko Mohammad as the substantive Chief Justice of the Federation.
Recall that the Board of Trustees of Malcom Omirhobo Foundation had filed an ex-parte motion seeking to restrain the President from appointing Tanko as the Chief Justice of Nigeria and an order of interim injunction restraining the Senate from confirming the appointment of Tanko as the Chief Justice, pending the determination of the motion on notice.
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja on May 3, ordered respondents in the suit to show cause why reliefs sought in the ex-parte motion should not be granted.
Defendants in the suit are: National Judicial Council, NJC, Federal Judicial Service Commission of Nigeria, FJSCN, Justice Muhammad, Federal Republic of Nigeria, FRN, President Buhari, the AGF and the Senate.
At the resumed proceedings on Monday, the trio of Buhari, AGF and the senate were not represented by counsel.
The NJC, FJSCN and Justice Muhammad were represented by lawyers, though A.O Ajana, who announced appearance for Justice Muhammad, said he appeared in protest because his client was not served with court processes.
The NJC was represented by Elizabeth Jonathan, while Sani Sule announced appearance for the FJSC.
Plaintiff’s counsel, Malcom Omirhobo agreed that Justice Muhammad had not been served with the processes and withdrew a motion he had filed for leave to serve the CJN through substituted means when Ajana agreed to accept service for his client.
Following Justice Ekwo’s indication of his readiness to hear the case promptly, Omirhobo withdrew the motion on notice for an order restraining the defendants from appointing Justice Muhammad in substantive capacity.
The judge then gave the defendants 14 days to respond to the substantive suit and adjourned hearing till June 3 with an order that hearing notices be issued and served on parties that were not in court.
The plaintiff, the Board of Trustees of Malcom Omirhobo Foundation, in the substantive suit, is praying the court to restrain President Buhari from appointing the Justice Muhammad as the substantive CJN contending that the Acting CJN had conducted himself in a manner that reduced the confidence of the public in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
It is also praying the court to restrain the National Assembly from confirming Justice Muhammad’s appointment as the substantive CJN.
The plaintiff further wants the court to declare that Justice Muhammad, who is the most senior jurist at the Supreme Court, was unfit to replace the former CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen.