7th February, 2011
The raging controversy over the appointment of the President of Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, to the Supreme Court, on Monday assumed a different dimension as Lagos fiery human rights lawyer; Mr. Femi Falana, dragged the National Judicial Council, NJC, before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja over the purported appointment.
Mr. Falana is challenging the appointment of the appellate court President to the apex court on the ground that it violates the federal character law which is normally observed in such appointments. He urged the court to make an order of perpetual injunction restraining both the National Judicial Commission and the Federal Judicial Service Commission from recommending or nominating Justice Salami for the said appointment to the apex court.
Part of the reliefs being sought from the court by Mr. Falana include, a declaration that the purported advise of the Federal Judicial Service Commission to the National Judicial Council to nominate or recommend Justice Ayo Isa Salami, the President of the Court of Appeal for appointment to Supreme Court of Nigeria is in-equitable, unlawful, illegal, and unconstitutional, been in flagrant violation of section 4 the Federal Character Commission (Establishment etc) Act Cap F7, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
He further contended that Justice Salami is an indigene of Kwara state of Nigeria from the North Central Zone that already has the maximum number of Justices in the Supreme Court being three allowable by the guiding principles and formulae for the distribution slots at the apex court.
He also urged the court to declare that the National Judicial Commission cannot lawfully or validly recommend Justice Salami for appointment to Supreme Court of Nigeria being an indigene of Kwara State of Nigeria from the North Central Zone of Nigeria that already has the maximum number of three Justices in the Supreme Court in contravention of Section 4 of the Federal Character Commission.
In an affidavit in support of the originating summons deposed to by Mr. Anthony Itedjere of Bamidele Atura & Co Chambers stated that, â€œon the 1st and 2nd of February 2011, the second Defendant (Federal Judicial Service Commission) purportedly passed a resolution to advise the first Defendant (National Judicial Commission) to recommend the appointment of Hon Justice Ayo Salami to the Supreme Court of Nigeriaâ€.
Citing the composition of the Supreme Court Justices in line with the Federal Character Act, Mr. Falana noted that North Central zone has three Justices, North West, three justices, North East, three, South- South, two, South East, two, South West, three and added that appointing another Justice from the North Central to the Supreme Court will not only offend the principle of federal character, but will also bring confusion and needless constitutional crisis.
Aside from this, he maintained that Justice Salami has rejected the offer or recommendation for his appointment to the apex court and therefore should not be elevated against his wish and the position of the law, pointing out that the contrary will be a breach of the law.
By Nnamdi Felix / Abuja