The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, fixed June 25 for judgment in a suit filed by a group against the National Judicial Council (NJC) over alleged lopsidedness in the recent appointment of Appeal Court justices.
Justice Inyang Ekwo fixed the date after parties in the matter adopted their processes in relation to the suit.
The group; the Incorporated Trustees of Alaigbo Development Foundation, had also sued the Federal Judicial Service Commission, President of the Court of Appeal, Federal Character Commission (FCC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as 2nd to 5th defendants respectively.
The plaintiff, while adopting its processes prayed Justice Ekwo to stop the appointment of the justices on the grounds that the South East region had been marginalised in the selection.
The group, through its lawyer, Max Ozoaka, argued that the exercise done by the NJC violated the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as a result of its lopsidedness.
Ozoaka alleged that the Principles of the Federal Character was breached in the way and manner the new Appeal Court justices were nominated and subsequently urged the judge to nullify the exercise.
But counsel to the NJC (1st defendant), Paul Usoro, SAN, while arguing his preliminary objection, prayed Justice Ekwo to decline jurisdiction in the matter on the grounds that the plaintiff lacked locus standi (legal right) to institute the action..
Usoro told the court that the plaintiff was an Igbo socio-cultural organisation and that the aims and objectives of the group did not include instituting cases of public interest.
The senior lawyer further disagreed on the premise that photocopies of certificate of incorporation of the group certified by a court registrar was tendered.
He averred that only officials of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) were empowered to certify such documents and urged the court to dismiss the case.
Corroborating Usoro’s argument, counsel to the 2nd and 3rd defendants, Y. C. Maikyau, SAN, urged the court to refuse to entertain the matter.
According to him, Section 20 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) did not permit the group to embark on instituting such an action.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the plaintiff, in an originating summons marked FHC/ABJ/CS/347/21 dated March 15 and filed March 16 had urged Justice Ekwo to restrain the defendants from continuing the exercise pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
The group had sought a court order compelling the defendants to replace the three vacancies in the South East slots by three new justices from the zone.
In the application they also asked the court to determine that “having regard to the oath of office of the defendants to uphold the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended.
NAN reports that when the matter was mentioned on March 29, Justice Ekwo had held that the case ought to be heard expeditiously, ordering an abridgment of time within which the matter could be determined.(NAN)