*Say Governor’s Wife on Kogi Judicial Shortlist Despite Lacking Requirements
*Allege Ethnic Bias, Political Interference in Kogi Judiciary Shortlist

A group of renowned Senior Advocates of Nigeria has initiated a lawsuit against the National Judicial Council (NJC) and Kogi State government over concerns with a recent shortlist for appointments into the state’s judiciary.

Other defendants in the suit are: Kogi State Judicial Service Commission, Attorney General and the Commissioner For Justice Of Kogi State.

In the Originating Summons before the Federal High Court in Abuja, with SUIT NO:. FCT/ABJ/CS/05/2024, the Learned Silks, argue the selection process violated regulations and constitutional principles of fairness, equity, and merit.

The plaintiffs include Chief Yunus Ustaz Usman and J.S Okutepa. Others are Patrick Okolo, Abdullahi Haruna, Reuben Atabo, Shaibu Aruwa and Johnson Usman, claim the list suffers from ethnic and political interference.

Amongst issues raised is the inclusion of Governor Yahaya Bello’s wife, Amina, as a proposed High Court judge when she neither has magistrate experience nor meets other requirements.

In an Affidavit sworn by one of the plaintiffs, Patrick Okolo, SAN, the SANs insist the National Judicial Council guidelines and constitutional clauses governing appointments are mandatory and binding.

The SANs also protest the concentration of candidates from Bello’s central Kogi district. They further pointed out that the selection of candidates in Kogi State for appointment as Judicial officers to the superior courts of record should be on the basis of merits, competence, sound knowledge of law, fairness, equality and geographical spread within Kogi State devoid of ethnic and political considerations.

In expressing their dissatisfaction on the selection, they noted that letters have been written on this issue by various body, like NBA Lokoja Branch, lawyers of Okun extraction of Kogi State, which comprise of Five (5) Local Government Areas to wit: Ijumu, Kabba/Bunu, Mopamuro, Yagba East, Yagba West, Kogi (Koton-Karfi and Lokoja Local Government Areas), Igala Youth Leaders Assembly.

“That despite the service of Exhibits 2, 3, 4 and 5 on the 1st and 2nd Defendants, they ignored same and went ahead on 23rd November 2023 to invite the said shortlisted candidates to the Department of State Security (DSS) for screening and on 1stDecember 2023, the 1st Defendant’s officials went to Kogi State to conduct an inspection of the facilities such as official cars and office space preparatory for the said appointment.

“That the Defendants are now preparing to invite the shortlisted candidates for interview consequent upon which the successful candidates from the interview will be appointed as Judges of the High Court of Kogi State, Judges of Customary Court of Appeal of Kogi State and Khadis of the Sharia Court of Appeal of Kogi State without further delay from now.

“That the 3rd Defendant is bent on the appointment of the said shortlisted candidates as judicial officers of the Superior Courts in Kogi State before leaving office at the expiration of his tenure on 27th January 2024 since his wife; Amina Yahaya Bello Esq was among those shortlisted.

“That the said Amina Yahaya Bello Esq is No 4 in the shortlisted High Court of Justice List in Exhibit1.

 

S/N

 

NAME OF CANDIDATE

 

POSITION/GRADE LEVEL

SENATORIAL

      ZONE

 

1.

 

Badru Abdul Ganiyu

DCR, Area Court of Kogi Sate,

(Grade Level 17)

 

West

2. Ezema Beartrice Ada DCR, Personnel Management

(Grade Level 17)

East
 

3.

 

Ibrahim Idenyi

State Counsel, Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Kogi State  

East

4. Amina Yahaya Bello Wife of the Governor, Kogi State  

Central

 

5.

 

Joseph Sunday Ajesola

Secretary, Judicial Service Commission, Kogi State  

West

 

 

6.

 

 

Dr. Mohamed Tanko

DCR, Magistrate Court of Kogi Sate,

(Grade Level 17)

 

 

East

7. Umaru Medina Senior Magistrate, GL. 13 Central
 

 

8.

 

 

Badama Kadir

Director, Public Prosecution (DPP) Ministry of Justice, Kogi State  

 

East

9. O. J. Ibrahim Chief Registrar, High Court West
10. Ojoma Rachael  Haruna DCR/DPRS, JSC

(Grade Level 17)

 

East

11. Halima Onuka Senior Magistrate

(Grade level 13)

 

Central

12. Zakari Wahab DG, Office of the Public Defender  

East

 

“That I know as a fact that among the Provisional Shortlisted Candidates for appointment as judicial officers to the High Court of Kogi State are two (2) Women from Kogi Central one of whom is Amina Yahaya Bello, Esq; the wife of the Governor of Kogi State who is not in private practice and not a Magistrate.

“That I know as a fact that the said Amina Yahaya Bello, Esq and other candidates in Exhibit 1 do not have the required number of Judgments of both trial and appellate Courts that qualifies them for appointments as Judges of the superior Courts of records in Kogi Sate as required by the Rules of the 1st Defendant.

“That I know as a fact that the three candidates provisionally shortlisted by the 2nd Defendant for appointment as Judges of the Customary Court of Appeal of Kogi State who are all from Kogi Central Senatorial District are Musa Onogo Idris Esq., Maryiann Ozohiu Esq., and Shaibu OzoveheEbenezer Esq,. have seniors from other Senatorial Districts of the State who expressed interest in being appointed as Judges but were not selected in spite of the fact that they are qualified and adjudged by all and sundry as being competent to be made judges.

“That I know as a fact that the 2nd Defendant is doing the bidding of the 3rd Defendant and has wrongly recommended those who did not meet the requirements of appointment to the offices recommended in Exhibit 1 for purely partisan and political consideration as parting gift to the occupant of the office of the 3rd Defendant who is due to vacate office on the 27th January 2024.”

The Plaintiffs therefore ask the court to restrain the Defendants/Respondents, their servants, agents and privies from taking any further step at all in respect of the recommendation and appointment of the shortlisted candidates pending the final hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

They also seek an ORDER of Interlocutory Injunction, restraining the Defendants, their agents, privies and servants from fixing dates for interview of the shortlisted candidates as well as from inviting them for any meeting or from performing any other such functions in relation to the subject matter of this suit pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

By approaching the court, the legal team hopes compelling court to uphold NOT established statutes in constituting Kogi’s next judiciary. The case will undoubtedly generate immense public interest as it questions political interference with judicial independence.

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