President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation have been dragged before a Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday over the appointment of a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and the principle of Separation of Power.
Buhari, AGF are sued along with the Federal Judicial Service Commission, Justice Samuel Walter Onnoghen and the National Judicial Council as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants respectively in the suit with no: FHC/ABJ/CS/1019/16.
In the legal action filed by Chief Malcolm Omirhobo for himself and on behalf of the generality of Nigerians, the court was invited to give interpretation to section 231(1)()3)(4) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The plaintiff who is a legal practitioner based in Lagos is asking the court to determine whether the qualification, assessment and evaluation necessary for the appointment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria are the exclusive preserve of the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the National Judicial Council.
He also asked the court to determine whether by virtue of section 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution, the President in exercising his powers to appoint the CJN must act on the recommendation of the NJC.
Plaintiff also wants the court to determine whether by virtue of section 231(3) of the 1999 Constitution, the President as the head of the executive arm of government can hand-pick and or choose who he wants to be the head of the judicial arm of the government and whether the judicial arm is an appendage of the executive arm.
Similarly, plaintiff also asked the court to determine whether the CJN and justices of superior courts of records and magistrates as well as other judicial officers in the country hold their offices at the pleasure of the president.
He therefore urged the court to make declaration that the qualification, assessment and evaluation necessary for the appointment of CJN is the exclusive preserve of the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the NJC.
He also wants the court to declare that the judicial arm is not an appendage of the executive arm of government and that by virtue of section 231 of the constitution the president must act on the recommendation of the NJC to appoint the CJN.
Similarly, plaintiff wants the court to declare that the president cannot hand-pick or choose who he wants to be the head of the judiciary except as demanded by the constitution.
Plaintiff therefore applied for Order of Perpetual Injunction retraining the president from abusing the powers conferred on him by the constitution under section 231 and for another Order stopping the president from further eroding on the independence of the judiciary as the third arm of government.
Besides, he also wants Order of the court compelling the President to uphold the principle of separation of powers and the rule of law as enshrined in the constitution.
When the matter came up before Justice John Tsoho only the NJC was represented while others were absent even though they had been served with the originating summons.
Counsel to the plaintiff, Mrs Chinwe Okpala confirmed to the court that all the defendants have been served with the originating summons and wondered why the others were not in court.
She therefore asked for and adjournment for the parties to be present in court.
Justice Tsoho granted the adjournment for hearing till March 7.