By Henry Umoru
THE Senate has confirmed eight Justices of the Court of Appeal as Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The confirmation by the Senate yesterday was sequel to the consideration of the report of the Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, All Progressives Congress, APC, Ekiti Central led Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on the screening of the Nominations of (8) Justices of the Court of Appeal for Appointment as Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Those confirmed are: Hon. Justice Lawal Garba, North West; Hon. Justice Helen M. Ogunwumiju, South West; Hon. Justice Addu Aboki, North West; Hon. Justice I. M. M. Saulawa, North West; Hon. Justice Adamu Jauro, North East; Hon. Justice Samuel C. Oseji, South South; Hon. Justice Tijjani Abubakar, North East; and Hon. Justice Emmanuel A. Agim, South South.
Presenting the report, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele said, “we wish to observe that these appointments satisfy the constitutional provision of section 231 (3) which stipulates a minimum of fifteen (15) years post call experience to qualify for appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Also, by virtue of paragraph 13 (a) (ii), Third Schedule to the Constitution, the Federal Judicial Service Commission is empowered to advise the National Judicial Council in nominating persons for appointment as Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, and the Federal Judicial Service Commission indeed, kick-started the process as required by the above constitutional requirement, before the nominees were forwarded to the National Judicial Council for recommendation to Mr President for the appointment.
“Currently, the composition of the Supreme Court of Nigeria as per geopolitical zones, which in the Committee’s view, is a fair reflection of the Federal Character Principle, as enshrined in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, is as follows: No. of Present Justices No. of Justices upon Confirmation : North-East, 2; North-East, 4 (Including the Hon. CJN); North-West, 1; North-West, 4; North-Central, 2; North-Central, 2; South-East, 3; South-East, 3; South-West, 3; South-West, 4; South-South, 1 South-South, 3; Total is 12=20.
According to him, the Committee in its Observations and findings said, “That the appointment of the nominees, satisfied the requirement of Sections 230 (2) and 231 (1) and (2) and (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), which makes provisions for the appointment of Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria; and the Senate Standing Orders 2015, as amended;
“That the nominees possess the requisite qualifications, integrity, leadership qualities and comportment to discharge judicial responsibilities as Honourable Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria;
“That upon confirmation of the appointment of the nominees by the Senate, all the Geo-political Zones will be represented by 3 or 4 Justices, as the case may be, except the North-Central Zone, which will maintain its current 2 Justices on the Bench of the Supreme Court of Nigeria;
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“That the reason why the North-Central zone has 2 Justices unlike other zones, as indicated in paragraph 3 above, can be attributed to the fact that during the selection process, the nomination from the zone was stood down by the selection Committee for a further review of the nomination by the Federal Judicial Service Commission;
“That necessary steps are being taken to meet the full complement of the maximum number of Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigerian, in line with the constitutional provision. In this regard, one more appointment from the North-Central Zone, which is in the offing, will complete the maximum number of Justices and balance the representation, across the geo-political zones;
“That the appointment of Eight (8) Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria at one stretch, is a bold step taken by Mr President to further strengthen the Judiciary to meet up with the Challenges of the 21st Century; being the first time ever, that the country will be having 20 Justices on the Bench of the Supreme Court of Nigeria;
“That there is no petition against the nominations of any of the nominees; the nominees having been widely supported and commended by a cross section of Nigerians on their nominations by Mr President, as Honourable Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria;
“That there are no adverse reports against the nominees, as record checks and other forms of investigations by security agencies, did not reveal any negative trace against them;
“That the Committee is satisfied about their qualifications, experience, suitability, competence and integrity to assume the positions of Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria; and that the nominees are fit and proper persons for appointment as Honourable Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.”
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan had penultimate week, read a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari, seeking for the screening and subsequent confirmation of the Justices.
The request was contained in a letter dated 31st August, 2020 and read by the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan during plenary.
Buhari in the letter said that the request was for the confirmation of the eight Justices to the Supreme Court was in consonance with the provisions of section 231(2) of the 1999 Constitution and the advice of the National Judicial Council.
The letter had read: “Pursuant to section 231(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), and upon the advice of the National Judicial Council, I hereby present for confirmation by the Senate, the appointment of the underlisted Eight (8) Justices of the Court of Appeal as Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, according to their ranking of seniority at the Court of Appeal.”