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By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

The National Judicial Council, NJC, has barred three high court judges from getting promotion for periods ranging from two to five years, after it found them guilty of issuing conflicting ex-parte orders.

The Council, which took the decision at the end of a two-day meeting it held in Abuja between December 14 and 15, said its investigations revealed that the three judges issued conflicting orders in cases involving the same parties and the subject matter.

Remarkably, legal disputes that caused problem for the judges, were on the recent leadership tussle in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, involving its former National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.

The NJC said the three judges were investigated, even though there was no  written petition, allegations of corruption or impropriety against them.

According to a statement that was signed by the Director of Information at the NJC, Mr. Soji Oye, the three judges that an investigation committee it set up in September, found guilty of indiscriminate issuance of ex-parte orders, were, Justice Okogbue Gbasam of the High Court of Rivers State,  Justice Nusirat I. Umar of the High Court of Kebbi State, and  Justice Edem Ita Kooffreh of the High Court of Cross River State.

While Justices Gbasam and Umar were barred from getting promotion to the higher bench for the next two years, Justice Kooffreh was stopped from getting promotion for the next five years.

Besides, the legal body issued warning letters to the affected judges, urging them to  be circumspect in granting such Exparte Orders in the future, even as it placed them on watchlist.

Though the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, is statutorily the head of the NJC, however, the meeting where recommendations of the investigation committee was ratified, was chaired by the Deputy Chairman of the Council, Justice Mary Peter-Odili.

The statement, read: “The National Judicial Council rose from its two days meeting held on 14 and 15 December 2021, with a resolution to bar the three Judges of Courts of concurrent jurisdiction who granted conflicting Exparte Orders in matters with same parties and subject matter from promotion to higher Bench for a period ranging from two to five years whenever they are due.

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“Even though there was no written petition, allegations of corruption or impropriety against the subject Judges, Council nevertheless, initiated investigation pursuant to its inherent disciplinary powers under the Constitution to unravel the circumstances that led to the spate of Exparte Orders granted by these Courts of coordinate jurisdiction over matters bearing same parties and subject matter.”

Meanwhile, the NJC, said it also approved the appointment of 63 Judges for 16 States, nine of which are Heads of Court.

“Council also received notification of retirements from Hon. Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of the Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Bello Duwale of the High Court of Sokoto State, Hon. Justices S. A. Omonua and O. S. Uwuigbe of the Edo State High Court, Hon Justices M. A. Pindiga and Beatrice L. Iliya of the High Court of Gombe State, Hon. Kadi Muhammad O. Abdulkadir, Grand Kadi, Sharia Court of Appeal, Kwara State and Hon. Justice S. M. C. Ururuka-Ogeshi, President, Customary Court of Appeal, Abia State.

“It also received notification of deaths of Hon. Justice A. K. Fowe, High Court, Ekiti State, Hon. Justice Chinonyerem Onii, High Court, Imo State and Hon. Dr. Kadi Shehu Ibrahim Ahmad, Grand Kadi, Kaduna State.”

“Finally, Council approved the promotion of 84 members of staff ranging from salary Grade levels 7 to 17 as submitted by its Appointment, Promotion and Disciplinary Committee”, the statement further.

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