The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, has demanded the records of proceedings in the suits that led to the recent wave of conflicting court orders in the country.

There are indications that the Delta State Chief judge may join the six other previously summoned six Chief Judges to face probe over the matter.

PREMIUM TIMES reliably gathered on Sunday that the Chief Judges of the state High Courts involved in the matter that has been described as an embarrassment to the Nigerian judiciary are expected to appear with the court records for a probe on Monday.

This newspaper had reported how the CJN summoned the Chief Judges of Rivers, Kebbi, Cross River, Anambra, Jigawa and Imo States regarding the conflicting ex parte orders issued by their courts all in political cases.

“The Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman National Judicial Council (CJN), Hon. Dr. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, has demanded the records of proceedings in all the suits from which conflicting ex parte orders emanated,” a judiciary source who is privy to the developments but prohibited from talking to the media about it stated in a text message shared with PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday.

“The Chief Judges of Rivers, Kebbi, Cross Rivers, Anambra, Jigawa and Imo States are to be quizzed on the controversial conflicting orders delivered in their various States on Monday, 6 September 2021.”

Delta Chief Judge also summoned

Sources also informed our reporter that the Delta State Chief Judge might have been summoned to face prove along with his six other counterparts on Monday.

While the CJN’s summons to the other six judges was still pending, the Delta State High Court on, September 1, suspended Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State as the caretaker committee chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Other members of his Caretaker/ Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the APC were also affected by the party, Vanguard Newspaper reported.

The judge, Onome Umukoro, also issued an interim order stopping the scheduled APC Local Government Congress in Delta State slated for September 4, 2021.

He then adjourned till September 7 for further hearing.

“There are indications that the Chief Judge, Delta State High Court, has also been invited to join the other six Chief Judges to meet with the Chief Justice of Nigeria on Monday,” a judiciary source said.

Lawyers had told this newspaper that the questionable court orders were issued ex -parte with little regard for principles of territorial jurisdiction, caution expected of a judge in the handling 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.

A top official of the National Judicial Council (NJC), the statutory body concerned with appointment and disciplining of judges, described the summons on the seven Chief Judges as “an precedented move” meant “to reset the anti-corruption efforts of the Tanko leadership and entrench a new culture of accountability in the judicial system.”

CJN to meet NBA

The CJN, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, is also likely to meet with the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) “in the course of the week, over the matter”, a source also said.

The president of the NBA, Olumide Akpata, had in a statement expressing concerns over the spate of contradictory court orders across the country sought an urgent meeting with the CJN “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.

“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,” the NBA president had said in the statement on August 31.

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.”

NJC spokesperson confirms summons

When contacted by our reporter on phone on Sunday, NJC’s Director of Information, Soji Oye, confirmed that the CJN had demanded the records of proceedings of the judges involved in the conflicting court orders.

He also said the Delta State Chief Judge might have been summoned.

“Yes, I am aware that the six Chief Judges have been asked to produce the records of proceedings, and they will be appearing on Monday. There are also indications that the Delta Chief Judge has been summoned too,” he said.

Backstory

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the judiciary had 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.

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 parts 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, a 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.

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