The Senate has said it does not play any role in the appointment of judges for the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
It described the forwarding of the names of 11 nominees to it by the President Muhammadu Buhari for screening and confirmation as merely ceremonial and meant to enhance inter-governmental relations.
The senate and its president, Ahmed Lawan, stated this in their joint response to a suit filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, challenging Buhari’s forwarding of the names of the nominees to the upper legislature, and the anticipated screening and confirmation of the candidates by the chamber.
The suit filed by an Abuja-based lawyer, Oladimeji Ekengba, joined the senate president and the senate as the 3rd and 4th defendants, respectively.
The PUNCH reports that also joined as defendants in the suit are Buharis the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; the Clerk of the Senate; the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad; and the National Judicial Council, as the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th defendants, respectively.
The plaintiff, in the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/733/2020, argued that Buhari’s forwarding of the names of the 11 candidates to the senate for screening and confirmation, is in breach of Section 256(2) of the Constitution.
However, Malami, in his own response, justified the action, saying it was within the “discretionary power” of the President to so do.
But the senate and Lawan in their counter-affidavit filed in response to the suit, conceded that they “have no say in their status as judges”.
The counter-affidavit filed on their behalf by a litigation officer, Umoru Jibrin, stated, “That the President’s letter to the 3rd and 4th defendants was a mere ceremonial presentation of the judges in furtherance of their cordial working relationship to strengthen the judiciary in the Federal Capital Territory.
“That this ceremonial gesture by the 1st defendant (Buhari) has no significance than inter-governmental relations.”
The NJC had recommended 33 candidates to Buhari for appointment as FCT judges.
Buhari forwarded 11 of the names to the senate for screening, which Ekengba described as unconstitutional.
Justice Inyang Ekwo has fixed August 12, 2020, for the hearing of the suit.