By Nwakpa O Nwakpa and Ralph Christopher
The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, fixed June 23 to hear a suit filed by a socio-cultural group against theNational Judicial Council (NJC) over alleged lopsidedness in the recent appointment of Appeal Court justices.The group; theIncorporated Trustees of Alaigbo Development Foundation, also sued theFederal Judicial Service Commission, President of the Court of Appeal, Federal Character Commission (FCC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as 2nd to 5th defendants respectively.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the plaintiff, in an originating summons marked FHC/ABJ/CS/347/21 dated March 15 and filed March 16 by their lawyer, Max Ozoaka,.had urged Justice Inyang Ekwo to restrain the defendants from continuing the exercise pending the hearing and determination of the suit. The group sought a court order compelling the defendants to replace the three vacancies in the South East slots by three new justices from the zone.In the application, they also asked the court to determine that “having regard to the oath of office of the defendants to uphold the Constitutionof the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, and the true intendment of Section 14 (3) and other the relevant provisions of the Constitution, whether the defendants can completely ignore, disregard or infringe at will the principles of justice, fairness, equity, due process and federal character in the ongoing exercise of appointment of Justices of the court of Appeal, particularly with regard to the South East Zone of the Federation,” among others.
NAN reports that when the matter wasmentioned on March 29, Justice Ekwo held that the case ought to be heard expeditiously, ordering an abridgment of time within which the matter could be determined.The judge then adjourned the matter until April 8 for hearing but the strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) stalled the sitting.However, when the matter came up on Wednesday, counsel to the plaintiff, Ozoaka, said he had served all the defendants with hearing notices in accordance with the earlier court order.
He informed that the defendants had just served him with their counter affidavits two days ago and that he would need time to respond.Paul Usoro, SAN, who appeared for NJC, and counsel to 2nd and 3rd defendants, Y. C. Maikyau, SAN, also attributed the delay to the strike action.Justice Ekwo, who fixed June 23 for hearing of the suit, ordered parties to put their house in order.(NAN)