Academics, senior lawyers snubbed in Supreme Court Justices nomination

The Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) has nominated 11 Justices of the Court of Appeal for elevation to the Supreme Court.

It is subject to the approval of the National Judicial Council (NJC) and Senate confirmation.

All the nominees are on the Court of Appeal Bench; none is from the academia or the Bar.

In June, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Olukayode Ariwoola, had asked the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president Yakubu Maikyau (SAN) to send names of lawyers for appointment to the Supreme Court.

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Maikyau subsequently called for expression of interest from eligible lawyers to fill eight vacancies on the highest court bench.

The available eight slots were for candidates from Southeast (two), Southsouth (one), Southwest (two), Northcentral (two) and Northwest (one).

Interested applicants were asked to submit their expression of interest to the NBA Secretariat on or before June 21.

But, the FJSC, also chaired by Justice Ariwoola, has jettisoned the Bar’s nominations by choosing from among Appeal Court justices.

The list contains six nominees each from Southeast and Northcentral; four from Northwest; and two each from Southwest, Southsouth and Northeast.

Of 22 Justices, 11 are placed in the priority category; the others are reserves.

The number of Supreme Court Justices dropped to 10 on October 27 when Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad retired.

The nominated justices are Southeast – Nwaoma Uwa (Abia), priority; Onyekachi Otisi (Abia State), reserve; Obande Ogbuinya (Ebonyi), priority; Theresa Orji-Abadua (Imo), reserve; Anthony Ogakwu (Enugu), priority and Chioma Nwosu-lheme (Imo State), reserve.

Southsouth – Moore Adumein (Bayelsa), priority, and Biobele Georgewill (Rivers), reserve.

Southwest – Adewale Abiru (Lagos), priority and Olubunmi Oyewole (Osun), reserve.

Northcentral – Jummai Sankey (Plateau), priority; Muhammad Ibrahim Sirajo (Plateau), reserve; Stephen Adah (Kogi), priority; Ridman Maiwada Abdullahi (Nassarawa), reserve; Baba Idris (Niger), priority, and Joseph Ikyegh (Benue), reserve.

Northeast – Haruna Simon Tsammani (Bauchi), priority, and Abubakar Talba (Adamawa), reserve.

Northwest – Muhammad Lawal Shuaibu (Jigawa), priority; Justice Bello Aliyu (Zamfara), reserve; Abubakar Sadiq Umar (Kebbi), priority; and Abdullahi Mahmud Bayero (Kano), reserve.

It was not the first time the hopes of academics and senior lawyers hoping to be appointed to the appellate court bench had been dashed.

In February 2017, the NBA shortlisted eight senior lawyers for appointment to the Supreme Court.

It followed a request by then CJN Walter Onnoghen, who asked the Bar Association to “nominate suitable candidates for appointment to the Supreme Court”.

Among the nominees were Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Anthony Idigbe (SAN), Yunus Usman (SAN), Babatunde Fagbohunlu (SAN), Miannayaaja Essien (SAN), Awa Kalu (SAN), among others.

None of them was eventually appointed to the Supreme Court.

Also in February last year, the NBA published the names of 23 potential candidates for appointment to the appellate court, but not none was considered eventually.

Judicial watchers always cite the example of the late Taslim Elias, a dean and professor of law at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) who served as Minister of Justice and Attorney-General from 1960 to 1966 but was appointed straight to the Supreme Court, where he served as CJN from 1972 to 1975.

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