A lawyer, Malcom Omirhobo, has filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja seeking an order to prevent the appointment of the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, as the substantive CJN.
The plaintiff alleged in the suit that Muhammad made himself available as a tool that was used in the violation of the Constitution, especially with regards to the “illegal” removal of Justice Walter Onnoghen.
We received reports that President Huhammadu Buhari had sworn in Muhammad, who is currently the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court as the acting CJN after suspending Onnoghen in January.
However, after the CCT removed the Onnoghen as CJN, it was learned that the President with the consent of the National Judicial Council had last week extended the acting tenure of Muhammad by another three months.
The plaintiff in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/420/2019, contended that with the role played by Muhammad in the alleged illegal removal of Onnoghen, he (Muhammad) was unfit to replace the sacked CJN.
He contended that the acting CJN conducted himself in a manner that reduced the confidence of the public in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
The plaintiff stated that the acting CJN “is therefore not a proper and fit person to be recommended for appointment to head the judiciary.
Sued as the 1st to the 7th defendants in the suit are NJC, the Federal Judicial Service Commission, the acting CJN, the Federal Government of Nigeria, President Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation, and the National Assembly.
The plaintiff, among other things, urged the court to declare that the suspension and/or removal of a CJN from office, was a shared responsibility of the 1st defendant (NJC), 5th defendant (Buhari) and 7th Defendant (National Assembly).
He argued that President Buhari lacked the constitutional powers to unilaterally suspend and/or removal a sitting CJN from office, as was done in the case of Onnoghen.
He also urged the court order to restrain the National Assembly from confirming any appointment of Justice Muhammad as the substantive CJN.
He prayed the court to stop Buhari from appointing Justice Muhammad as the substantive CJN.
He maintained that unless restrained by the court, the executive arm of government would “continue to violate the extant provisions of the Constitution and sanctity of the judiciary”.
The suit has been assigned to Justice Iyang Ekwo for hearing.