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March 15, 2024

 Court rejects suit challenging appointment of 12 judges for FCT High Court

 Court rejects suit challenging appointment of 12 judges for FCT High Court

Federal High Court

A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday, threw out a suit challenging the appointment of 12 judges for the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment on Friday, held that the plaintiff, Azubuike Oko, who claimed to be a lawyer from Ebonyi, lacked the legal right to institute the matter.

Justice Ekwo also upheld the objection raised by Akinlolu Kehinde, SAN, counsel for the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, the National Judicial Council (NJC), and the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Hussein Baba-Yusuf.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Oko, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/205/2024, challenged the non-inclusion of lawyers from his state among the newly appointed judges of the High Court of the FCT.

He alleged that Ebonyi had been routinely excluded and marginalised with respect to the appointment of judges of the court by Baba-Yusuf, NJC, and the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC).

Oko claimed that it was the FCT chief judge who computed the names of qualified lawyers from selected states, which he sent to the FJSC for recommendation to NJC for appointment by the President of Nigeria as judges of the court.

He said the states from which the new appointment was made are Bauchi, Bayelsa, Enugu, Imo, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Taraba, and Zamfara.

He alleged that currently, Oyo and Kogi “already had two serving judges in the FCT High Court, and the two states were given additional slots to now have three judges, despite the fact that Ebonyi State has no single serving judge in the High Court of the FCT.”

Justice Ekwo, in the judgment on Friday, held that the plaintiff was not saying that he had personal injury caused by the CJN, NJC, and the Chief Judge of the FCT or any other defendant in the case for which he sought remedy.

He said that “the plaintiff only claimed that he is from Ebonyi, which had been routinely excluded and marginalised with respect to the appointment of judges of the High Court of FCT by the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd defendants (the CJN, NJC, and the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC).

“What the plaintiff needed to establish to demonstrate his locus standi is how the appointment being considered by the defendants has affected him as a person.

“This, he would have done, by showing that he applied to be considered by the defendants for appointment, but he was ‘routinely excluded and marginalised.’

“On the other hand, he would have established that he is acting for any person or persons from Ebonyi State who are qualified to be appointed and who have indeed applied to be considered for the said appointment but had been ‘routinely marginalised.’

“In other words, there is no averment that the plaintiff ever applied to be considered for the appointment in issue.

“Without this, I find that the plaintiff has failed to establish his locus standi to initiate this action.”

The judge equally faulted Oko’s attempt to rely on his being from Ebonyi to establish his locus standi to institute the suit.

“The fact that the plaintiff is from Ebonyi State does not still avail him of the locus to initiate this case because, in his view, Ebonyi State of Nigeria has been routinely excluded and marginalised with respect to the appointment of judges of the High Court of FCT by the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd defendants.

“Ebonyi State, for whose cause the plaintiff claims to undertake, is a legal entity established by the constitution with requisite corporate characteristics, including the capacity to sue and be sued for any wrong done to it by any person.

“Assuming that the plaintiff can sue on behalf of Ebonyi State of Nigeria, which according to him, has been routinely excluded and marginalised with respect to the appointment of judges of the High Court of FCT by the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd defendants, the averment that would have established his locus beyond any conjecture would be that the case is in a representative capacity and that he has the consent and authority of Ebonyi State of Nigeria to file the case.

“It must be understood, at this point, that public interest litigation does not extend to suit purportedly filed on behalf of any person who has the capacity and wherewithal to seek remedy for any wrong done to his/her person, but does not deem it necessary to do so.

“I find that Ebonyi State has the requisite capacity to seek remedy for any wrong done to it.

“By this reason, the plaintiff is obviously meddling in the affairs of 1st, 2nd, and 4th defendants by taking up a cause of a state, who has not authorised him to do so.

“It is the law that the court, in ascertaining whether the plaintiff in an action has locus standi, pleadings, that is, the statement of caim, or the affidavit in support of the originating process, must disclose a cause of action vested in the plaintiff and the rights and obligations or interests of the plaintiff that have been violated;

“Now, as the law is, where a plaintiff has been adjudged to lack locus stand, it does not matter whether that action is premature, speculative, and academic, or discloses no reasonable cause of action against the defendant, or the originating process is defective and incompetent, or suit is not justiciable, or the suit is an abuse of court process.

“Lack of focus stand ordinarily means the plaintiff has no legal right or authority to cross the threshold of the court for the matter at hand.

“Once the court finds that the plaintiff lacks focus, then the case ends there.

“The court ceases to have jurisdiction to consider or decide any other issue in the suit, and this is the case here.

“It is the law that the claims must be struck out, and I am bound to follow the law.

”I therefore make an order striking out this action for lack of locus standi of the applicant,” Justice Ekwo declared. (NAN)