Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court has refused to grant an ex-parte order to stop President Muhammadu Buhari from swearing in Justice Tanko Muhammad as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN). The court ordered President Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation, the National Judicial Council, NJC, as well as the Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC, who are defendants in the matter to adduce reason why Justice Muhammad should be sworn-in as the next CJN. The court has fixed May 13 to hear all the processes filed in the matter. President Buhari had on January 25, appointed Justice Muhammad to replace the former CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen who was suspended from office over allegation that he breached the code of conduct for public officers by failing to properly declare his assets as prescribed by the law. Justice Onnoghen was eventually convicted on April 18 by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, in Abuja, which found him guilty on all six-count charge the federal government preferred against him. As part of his sentence, the CCT directed his removal as the CJN and head of both the NJC and the FJSC. President Buhari had since extended Justice Tanko Muhammad’s initial three months tenure as the Acting CJN, based on NJC’s recommendation. A lawyer who is also the plaintiff in the matter, Chief Malcom Omirhobo, in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/420/2019, asked the court to declare that Justice Muhammad who is currently the most senior judge at the Supreme Court, is unfit to replace Justice Onnoghen, as CJN. He prayed the court to declare that the Acting CJN, having made himself available as a tool that was used in the violation of the Constitution, especially with regards to the “illegal” removal of the former CJN, is therefore not a proper and fit person to be recommended for appointment to head the judiciary. The plaintiff said the Acting CJN conducted himself in a manner that reduced the confidence of the public in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary. Yesterday, before hearing could commence in the matter, the plaintiff brought an ex-parte motion to abort any plan to consolidate Justice Muhammad’s position as head of the judiciary. The application was rejected by the court, which ordered the plaintiff to go and put all the defendants on notice to enable them to appear and show cause why the relief should not be granted.
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