The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, on Monday, grilled the Chief Judges of six states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) over the conflicting court orders that recently emanated from their courts.
He warned the judges to immediately stop “the nonsense”, and threatened without mentioning names that three of the judges who issued the controversial order would be made scapegoats.
“Your job as Heads of Court is a sacred one, therefore, includes you vicariously taking the sinsmof others. There must be an end to this nonsense,” a statement by the National Judicial Council (NJC) quoted the CJN as saying.
The statement signed by NJC’s spokesperson, Mr Soji Oye described a “visibly angry” CJN who read the “riot act” to the Chief Judges.
It said Mr Muhammad issued the stern warning in “a joint session” held after he “personally quizzed” the Chief Judges during second-on-one-one sessions with them on Monday.
“We shall make an example with these three judges and never shall we condone such act,” he reportedly told the Chief Judges, adding, “You shall henceforth take absolute charge in assigning cases or matters, especially political personally.”
Lamenting the embarrassment the spate of conflicting court orders had caused the judiciary, Mr Muhammad said, “A damage to one jurisdiction is damage to all. We must therefore put an end to indiscriminate granting of exparte orders, conflicting judgements or rulings occasioned by forum-shopping.”
The NJC’s statement said Mr Muhammad started the meeting with the Chief Judges at 11 a.m. till 5:30 p.m. on Monday.
It said the CJN had “a one-on-one interaction” with the Chief Judges of the FCT, Rivers, Kebbi, Cross River, Jigawa, Anambra, and Imo states, where the controversial court orders emanated from.
PREMIUM TIMES reported on Sunday that the CJN had summoned the Chief Judges to appear before him with the relevant records of proceedings on Monday.
The Chief Judge of the FCT had not been mentioned among those summoned by the CJN since it was first reported by various media platforms including this newspaper last week.
Sources instead informed our reporter and other journalists that the Chief Judge of Delta State might have been summoned as well due to another controversial ex parte order that emanated from his court last week.
But the name of the Delta Chief Judge did not appear on the list of those ‘grilled’ by the CJN on Monday.
Three judges invited, warned
Mr Muhammad, according to the NJC statement, also said three of the judges who granted conflicting ex parte orders had been invited to appear before the NJC “to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them”.
He warned the CJs to henceforth avoid unnecessary assumption of jurisdiction in matters and parties already before another court, protect the court from lawyers that are out for forum shopping and work in tandem with all their Judges to salvage the image of the judiciary.
He also warned the CJs from making newly appointed judges vacation judges and assigning complex cases to inexperienced judges.
All the controversial court orders issued in the last two months came about during the ongoing judges vacation.
The CJN also said all heads of courts would be invited to a meeting “to reemphasise the need for the judiciary to be circumspect on the issue of granting exparte orders”.
Like earlier reported, Mr Muhammad said he would also meet with the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on the issue.
“The CJN advised all Heads of Court to be current on the development in the polity and the judgments delivered by courts of various jurisdictions and to urgently issue practice direction to guide judges in their various courts to avoid giving conflicting decisions,” the statement added.
“The judiciary will no longer condone indiscipline or allow any Judge to tarnish the image of the Judiciary,” the CJN warned.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the judiciary had seemingly joined the fray of the political crisis rocking some political parties in the country by indiscriminately granting orders and counter-orders as requested by the different warring sides.
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 parts of the country to obtain orders on the APGA’s governorship candidates for the forthcoming Anambra State election.
READ ALSO: Conflicting Court Orders: CJN summons six Chief Judges, NBA laments
In 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.