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Conflicting Court Orders: CJN summons six Chief Judges, NBA laments

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, has summoned the Chief Judges of six states over the recent wave of conflicting orders issued from their courts.

Mr Muhammad who is the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), a statutory body concerned with appointment and disciplining of judges, issued the summons to the affected Chief Judges in Abuja on Monday.

The judicial officials summoned to face interrogation over the development are Chief Judges of states in the South-south, North-west and South-east regions.

The states are Rivers, Kebbi, Cross River, Anambra, Jigawa and Imo states.

The questionable ex parte orders issued in various political cases emanated from the judges of the six states in the last two months.

Spokesperson for the CJN, Ahuraka Isah, confirmed the summons issued by Mr Muhammad to the Chief Judges to our correspondent on Monday.

The affected heads of court are to appear before the CJN as a prelude to the broader probe by the NJC to explain what warranted issuance of conflicting orders by courts of coordinate jurisdiction in their domains.

Excerpts from the summons were shared with our reporter by top judiciary sources who sought not to be named because they were not given authorisation to speak on the matter.

“My attention has been drawn to media reports to the effect that some courts of coordinate jurisdiction were granting conflicting ex-parte orders on the same subject matter.

“It has become expedient for me to invite you for a detailed briefing on the development.

“This is even more compelling having regard to earlier NJC warning to judicial officers on the need to be circumspect in granting Exparte applications,” excerpts from the summons read in part.

The CJN is reported to be “embarrassed” by the development, and intends to use the meeting with the CJN to receiving briefings from the Chief Judges ahead of NJC’s broader deliberations on the matter.

Backstory
The judiciary has seemingly joined the fray of political crisis rocking some political parties in the country by indiscriminately granting orders and counter-orders as requested by the different warring sides.

Lawyers say all the questionable orders were issued ex -parte with little regard for principles of territorial jurisdiction, caution expected of a judge in the handing of an ex parte hearing, and the need for a court to stay clear of a matter whose subject matter is already pending before a court of coordinate jurisdiction.

For instance, such orders have been issued concerning the choice of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the forthcoming election in Anambra State.

Desperate politicians have traversed courtrooms in different part of the country to obtain orders on the APGA’s governorship candidates for the forthcoming Anambra State election.

In just one week, three courts in different states also issued counter-orders about the office of the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

On August 24, a Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt restrained Uche Secondus from parading himself as PDP national chairman.
However, in another twist, the Kebbi State High Court in Birnin-Kebbi restored Mr Secondus’ mandate as the national chairman of the opposition PDP on August 27.

A day after Mr Secondus’ reinstatement, another High Court in Calabar, Cross River State, issued an interim order restraining him from resuming office as PDP chairman.

NBA kicks
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), has expressed concerns over the spate of contradictory court orders across the country.

“The recurring contradictory decisions by our courts, based on apparently indiscriminate grant of orders and counter-orders, in a way,evokes memories of those eerie and unwanted dark days,” Olumide Akpata, NBA’s president said in a statement on Monday.

He added, “These developments in our courts are antithetical to the actualisation of the just society and independent judiciary that we all aspire to.”

The association blamed its members for yielding themselves to be used as “willing tools by politicians to wantonly abuse the judicial process.”

It condemned the indulgence by some “judicial officers of politicians who go round the country shopping for judgments, and who thereby bring the Judiciary to public ridicule.”

Mr Akpata warned that the NBA would no longer stand idly by while “Nigeria’s hard-earned democracy is threatened by the venal acts of a few.”

As Nigeria’s next elections circle approaches, the NBA President said, “It can no longer be business as usual.”

Mr Akpata, who blamed both the bench and the bar for the events, sought audience with the CJN to find a solution to the matter.
“The bench, respectfully, is also not blameless. We certainly concur with the Honourable Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme of the Court of Appeal in her condemnation of the indulgence by some judicial officers of politicians who go round the country shopping for judgment, and who thereby bring the judiciary to public ridicule.

“To that end, the NBA will urgently seek audience with the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria to address this issue holistically.”

He said while the NBA would not make further comments on the issue, in the meantime, he nominated the Chairman of the NBA Judiciary Committee, Babatunde Ajibade, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and two others to be part of the NBA team.

Others coopted into the team by the NBA president are the chairpersons of the NBA Section of Legal Practice (NBA-SLP) and NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Oluwaseun Abimbola, a SAN, and Monday Ubani, respectively.

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