By John Ikani
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, on Monday, grilled the Chief Judges of six states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) over the conflicting court orders that recently emanated from their courts.
He warned the judges to immediately stop “the nonsense”, and threatened without mentioning names that three of the judges who issued the controversial order, would be made scapegoats.
“Your job as Heads of Court is a sacred one, therefore, includes you vicariously taking the sinsmof others. There must be an end to this nonsense,” a statement by the National Judicial Council (NJC) quoted the CJN as saying.
The statement signed by NJC’s spokesperson, Mr Soji Oye, described a “visibly angry” CJN who read the “riot act” to the Chief Judges.
It said Mr Muhammad issued the stern warning in “a joint session” held after he “personally quizzed” the Chief Judges during second-on-one-one sessions with them on Monday.
“We shall make an example with these three judges and never shall we condone such act,” he reportedly told the Chief Judges, adding that “You shall henceforth take absolute charge in assigning cases or matters, especially political personally.”
How the chief judges were grilled
According to a statement by Mr Oye, the the meeting which commenced at 11 a.m, lasted until 5:30 p.m.
The meeting began with a one-on-one interaction with the CJ in this order: FCT Abuja, Rivers State, Kebbi State, Cross River State, Jigawa State, Anambra State, and Imo State.
The Chief judges were separately questioned personally by the CJN for over an hour, before he red them the riot act in a joint session involving all of them.
Erring judges to face NJC
Mr Muhammad, according to the NJC statement, also said three of the judges who granted conflicting ex parte orders had been invited to appear before the NJC “to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them”.
He warned the CJs to henceforth avoid unnecessary assumption of jurisdiction in matters and parties already before another court, protect the court from lawyers that are out for forum shopping and work in tandem with all their Judges to salvage the image of the judiciary.
What you should know
The judiciary has seemingly joined the fray of political crisis rocking some political parties in the country by indiscriminately granting orders and counter-orders as requested by the different warring sides.
Lawyers say all the questionable orders were issued ex-parte with little regard for principles of territorial jurisdiction, caution expected of a judge in the handing of an ex parte hearing, and the need for a court to stay clear of a matter whose subject matter is already pending before a court of coordinate jurisdiction.
For instance, such orders have been issued concerning the choice of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the forthcoming election in Anambra State.
Desperate politicians have traversed courtrooms in different part of the country to obtain orders on the APGA’s governorship candidates for the forthcoming Anambra State election.
In just one week, three courts in different states also issued counter-orders about the office of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
On August 24, a Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt restrained Uche Secondus from parading himself as PDP national chairman.
However, in another twist, the Kebbi State High Court in Birnin-Kebbi restored Mr Secondus’ mandate as the national chairman of the opposition PDP on August 27.
A day after Mr Secondus’ reinstatement, another High Court in Calabar, Cross River State, issued an interim order restraining him from resuming office as PDP chairman.