The Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Hon. Justice Ishaq Usman Bello has reportedly sworn-in 40 persons as Magistrates which is conspicuously said not to be in line with due process.

BACKGROUND FACTS

TheNigeriaLawyer(TNL), gathered that the 40 persons were appointed as Magistrates without a public notice to that effect, thereby, making the entire process esoteric.

In addition, it was also gathered that they were sworn-in on Monday, 21st day of December, 2020 at the Multidoor Dispute Resolution Centre, Gudu.

As at the time of filing this report, there is no public notice regarding the appointment of these persons and their names are yet to be made public.

THENIGERIALAWYER’S REQUEST & RESPONSE OF FCT JUDICIARY STAFF

TheNigeriaLawyer in an effort to get the names of the appointed Magistrates, reached out to the SA to the FCT Chief Judge, Enenche Eleojo KSM, who stated that he was not in possession of the list and provided the contact number Office of the Secretary, FCT Judiciary Services Committee, Mr. Yusuf.

Meanwhile, in a telephone conversation with Mr. Yusuf, when he was asked to make the list available, he noted that “there are some documentations still ongoing regarding their appointments”.

He however added that “hopefully by next week”, it should be out after every appointed Magistrate has been handed a letter of appointment.

Also, reacting to why appointment letter may not have preceded their swearing-in, he said “they have been sworn in and after swearing-in, there is need for their documentation”, adding that one “can’t document them without being sworn in”.

Additionally, he noted that they would have been documented if not for the holiday but added that hopefully by next week, “their postings for attachment” will be done and thus, the authorization to release the list can be given.

NBA LACKS KNOWLEDGE OF THE APPOINTMENT

Findings by TheNigeriaLawyer revealed that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Branches in FCT, Abuja were not put on notice regarding the appointment nor were their inputs sought in attesting to the fitness and competency of the candidates.

NBA Abuja (Unity Bar), Gwagalada Branches all confirmed that they have no knowledge of the said appointment.

The Chairman of NBA Abuja (Unity Bar), Bulus Atsen, said he had no information about the appointment but he got to know about the swearing-in on the very day the event was ongoing at Multidoor Dispute Resolution Centre.

The Gwagalada Branch Chair, Isah Abubakar Aliyu, stated that although, he has not been to the office but if at all there is a notice to that effect, he would have been aware. But as at the time of this report, none has been given.

However, efforts made to speak with the Bwari Branch Chairman was unsuccessful.

A lawyer who does not want his name to appear on media noted, that the appointment is suspected to be laced with an element of nepotism since up till now the names of the newly sworn-in magistrates are yet to be brought to the public domain.

One of the members of the Excos, in FCT, stated:

“The appointment cannot be said to have fulfilled due process and in compliance with the relevant procedures. “This appointment might not have fulfilled due process and in compliance with the relevant procedures. This is because NBA is a relevant institution in the appointment of Magistrates and that the Branch had no input whatsoever in the process of appointment only speaks to the foul play which may have beclouded the entire process.”

A concerned Lawyer who prefer to remain anonymous, expressed his concerns as follows:

“Very unfortunate to hear that over 40 persons were sworn in as Magistrates in different occasions within 2 weeks in FCT without public notice, their names were not even made public for members of the Bar to make input and raise some questions if any. Even their names were hidden from the members of the press until after their swearing-in. I weep for Nigerian Judiciary.”

This, it is believed, a bid to also conceal the attendant public opprobrium likely to greet the appointment, if made public, TNL learned.

THENIGERIALAWYER CONFIRMS

A search conducted by TheNigerialawyer, on social media shows a  photo of Maryam Alhaji Muazu, who was one of the 40 lawyers that were sworn in.

Maryam Alhaji Muazu, whose photo was circulated on social media, was being congratulated by her friends and colleagues for the new appointment.

EARLIER CONTROVERSY ON FCT JUDGES APPOINTMENT VIS-A-VIS MAGISTRATES’ APPOINTMENT

TheNigeriaLawyer recalls that controversies had earlier greeted the recent appointment of some FCT High Court Judges, following a petition written by Open Bar Initiative, alleging that incompetent persons were appointed as Judicial Officers.

It may not be far from the truth that the hitherto appointment not being made public is to boycott the criticism that had earlier beset the appointment of the FCT High Court Judges.

Meanwhile, the retirement of the FCT, CJ will be on the 5th day of January 2021.

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