Home Court Lawyer wants petition against shortlisted candidates for Kwara High Court Judge dismissed

Lawyer wants petition against shortlisted candidates for Kwara High Court Judge dismissed

by newshubmag

From Yinka Mashood, Ilorin

An Ilorin based legal practitioner, Taofiq Kayode Olateju Esq. has described the rejection of shortlisted candidates as High Court Judge in the Kwara State Judiciary as baseless, unwarranted and uncalled for.

Olateju who was reacting to a petition written against the shortlist of some persons proposed for the appointment as High Court Judge, called for dismissal of the said petition as it lacks merit.

He said that the due processes were followed in shortlisting the candidates contrary to the claims in the said petition.

The reaction which was addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council, a copy of which was made available to News Hub Mag! assured that all the “candidates were selected on merit and not by any blood affiliation, favourism and nepotism as wrongly alleged.”

The letter reads in full:

CHIEF JUSTICE OF NIGERIA,
THE CHAIRMAN,
NATIONAL JUDICIAL COUNCIL,
THREE ARMS ZONE,
ABUJA, F.C.T, NIGERIA

My Lord,

RE: Purported Petition on violations of and non compliance with the Constitutional and statutory provisions in appointment of Five new judges of High Court in Kwara State dated 31/10/2019 by one Barrister Sambo Muritala.

INTRODUCTION
1.0​ I am a legal Practitioner who practice in Ilorin, Kwara state and in pursuant to the rectitude of our profession it is incumbent on us to assert the truth and not to mislead the public by playing to the gallery or wipe up sentiment in addressing unverified fact that is fallacious.

As a legal practitioner who is expected to uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the cause of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and not to engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner, thus, am duty bound to evince the true position of things with regards to the recommendation for Appointment of Five new Judges in Kwara state as against the flimsy and unwarranted stand in the content of the purported Petition which is laced with gibberish.
It is indeed disgusting to attempt in desecrating the sacred integrity of Honorable Members of the kwara State Judicial Service Commission(JSC) by trying to drag their name into the mud. With all sense of responsibility, I hereby write as a concern stakeholder to dissociate from such purported petition with facts of the recommendation:

1.1​ A critical examination of the purported petition written by one Muritala Sambo Esq. against the recommendation of vibrant people of Honour and proven integrity to fill the vacant position of High Court Judges in the State will reveal beyond per adventure that the said petition is not only misleading, but also self contradicting and I crave your indulgent not to breath live into the purported petition.

1.2 ​STATEMENT OF FACTS
With ultmost respect sir, the purported petition is full of falsehood and misleading. However, it is to be noted sir, that the Hon Chief Judge S.D Kawu; Chairman of the Kwara State Judicial Service Commission during the recruitment exercise strictly and fully adhered to the provision of the Constitution for Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), Rules 4 and 5 of the National Judicial Council(NJC) Guidelines and Kwara State Judicial Service Commission Regulations.

1.3​ It is a common knowledge that thousands applied to be called for the interview on the vacant position of Kwara State High Court Judge, but after scrutiny, few were shortlisted and among the eligible few ipso facto are Olanipekun Sherifat Bola, (Chief Registrar of the High Court, Kwara State), Hussain Toyin Kawu (Deputy Registrar, Court Of Appeal, Abuja), Funsho Lawal Dada (Permanent Secretary, Ministry Of Justice), Nurrain Kuranga (Senior Chief Magistrate), Akande Idowu (Chairman NBA), Ilorin Branch among others. The candidates were selected on merit and not by any blood affiliation, favourism and nepotism as wrongly alleged. It is interesting for my Noble Lord and the whole World to see that with the qualification and year of experience, as well as the position of the shortlisted Candidates, they are qualified, contrary to the allegation that qualified people were not invited for the interview which was conducted on 25/10/2019. I pray Your Lordship and the whole world to note that the grouse of the author of the said Petition was never that, interview were not conducted.

1.4​ To my dismay, it is unethical for the author of the purported Petition, Barr. Muritala Sambo alleged that One Alhaji Adama Sidiq (Ebodaniyan) was indisposed due to old age and health challenges which made him not to attend the meeting. He came to the erroneous conclusion that as a result of this, the numbers of legal and functional members of the Commission have drastically reduced to three without exhibiting any medical Certificate and letter of his disengagement from his employer. This act of speculation is unbecoming of a legal practitioner as provided in Section 1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (2007). It behoove the author of the said Petition to convince your Lordship and the whole World with documentary evidence and his failure to adduce evidence will but banish his position to the realm of speculation.

1.5​ To meet up with the global judicial practice, the present government under the leadership of His Excellency Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, within his few days in office, has constructed/renovated four new Courts and providing incentives to the Judicial Staffers contrary to the allegation that there are no available Courts and facilities.

1.6​ Also as part of the efforts of the Government to see that lower court judges retirement age is in line with 65years provided by Section 291 (1), 2 and 3 (a) of 1999 Constitution as amended, sometimes in 11/10/2017, Ex-Governor (Abdulfatai Ahmed) gave approval to that effect with the issuance of a Circular dated 4/1/2018. It is also worthy to note that the Commission is vested with the power to regulate the procedure of appointment and/or assign functions to any judicial official with the approval of the Governor. Contrary to the allegation that the shortlisted candidates be rejected because they are having small remaining year of service and as a beneficiary of elongation of time. I commend you to section 204 (1) of 1999 Constitution of this section, any of the bodies may, with the approval of the governor, by rules or otherwise regulate its own procedure or confer powers or impose duties on any officer or authority for the purpose of discharging its functions”.

1.7​ It is no more news that in 2014, His Excellency Ex-Governor of Kwara State (Alhaji Ahmed Abdulfatai) lawfully inaugurated and constituted the seven men for the Commission. And as at the time of the recruitment exercise, the position of two (2) members were vacant, however, there are still FIVE [5] active members of the Commission. Out total number of members of the Commission, only One-Third is required to Form the Quorum. By calculation, 3 members are required to form the quorum. The decision was made by more than Three (3) members. Whether the meeting was held or by passing relevant papers among the members for the expression of their views in writing and in either of such case the views of the majority of the members shall be deem to be the decision of the Commission either on the floor of the meeting or without meeting. This decision is valid in the face of law. Contrary to the allegation that five (5) members shall form quorum. I refer to Part II Section 4 & 8 (1) of KWARA STATE JUDICIAL SERVICE COMMISSION REGULATION. “The quorum for a meeting shall not be less than one-third of the total number of members of the commission as at the date of that meeting” and ……… section (1) subject to paragraph (2) of this Regulation a decision may be made by the commission without a meeting by circulation of the relevant papers among the members and the expression of their views in writing and in such case the views of the majority of the members shall be the decision of the Commission.

1.8​ It is an act of misconduct for the author of the said Petition to allege that the Hon. Chief Judge of a State wrongly without justification, that under His Leadership as Chairman of the Commission, allowed a retired Grand Khadi, Abdullah Idrees Haroon who is not a legal practitioner, to seat as a Legal practitioner and participated in the said decision making. For the record however sir, the said retired Grand Khadi has never claimed to be a lawyer and did not replaced Barrister Alhaji Shafii Jimba but was duly appointed by the former Governor sometimes in 2014 as part of the commission.

The composition and its power are emphasis in both section 197 (1 & 2) 1999 Constitution and Part II of Third Schedule (C) of the Constitution.

“A State Judicial Service Commission shall comprise the following members:-

a. The Chief Judge of the State, who be the Chairman;

b. The Attorney General of the State;

c. The Grand Khadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the State, if any;

d. The President of the Customary Court of Appeal of the State, if any;

e. Two members, who are Legal Practitioners, and who have been qualified to practice as Legal Practitioners in Nigeria for not less than ten years; and

f. Two other persons not being legal practitioners, who in the opinion of the Governor are of unquestionable integrity”

1.9​ It is inevitable that the petitioner suppressed the truth to allege that there are no available facilities to accommodate new judicial Officers. However, for the sake of clarity and posterity there are more than five (5) empty Courts, library, Judges Quarters, and others in the Kwara State Judiciary.

2.0​ For avoidance of doubt, the High Court of Justice Headquarters Complex comprises of 14 Court Rooms situated within the same Court Premises and other 8 places i.e. Offa, Erin-ile, Omuaran, Osi, Lafiagi, Kaiama, among other places. It worth a pity, that some of the High Court Judges are presiding over more than one Court such as Hon. Justice Gegele, presiding over High Court in Omu-aran and Osi and Hon. Justice Adebara presiding over High Court in Offa and Erin Ile respectively. Out of more than 22 courts, there are 17 High Court Judges presently in Kwara State Judiciary and one will go on retirement soon, in December, 2019.

2.1​. Before the expiration of the Commission tenure on 31/10/2019, the recruitment exercise was conducted in accordance with the law by calling for expression of interest from general public on 26th August 2019 after the Governor & the NJC has given their approval. The comment and recommendations of the Judges and DSS Security report were duly considered, contrary to the assertion that there was shortage of time in the process. It is inevitable that in any activities there must be an end, not to be inform of snail cat walking.

2.2​. Prayers:

  1. Investigation Committee of NJC is required to be constituted.
  2. Investigation Committee is required to come and verify the available facilities.
  3. The petition written by Barrister Sambo Muritala tagged “Violations of and non compliance with the Constitutional and Statutory Provisions in the process of appointment of Five New High Court Judges by the Kwara State Judicial Service Commission: Appeal for Rejection of the Recommended Candidates/Nominees”, be deemed DISMISSED or TREATED WITHDRAWN in accordance with NJC (Discipline Regulation 2017).
  4. The subject matter of the petition has been overtaken by the already conclusion of shortlisting of candidates.
  5. There is no need of suspension of recruitment exercises.
  6. Relief of work overload by appointing more Judicial Officers.

2.3​. Conclusion
It is clear that the Judicial Service Commission created by law and members were duly appointed to constitute the commission by the
government for tenure of five years. Essential requirement such as availability of courtrooms, library, over work load of cases are inevitable before the expiration of tenure of the Commission on 31/10/19, one third of the members formed the quorum and reached valid decision to shortlist eligible candidates as required by law.

The shortlisted candidates have never been favoured in any way but they all merit the shortlisting.

All things being equal, there are no reasons to reject the shortlisted candidates and their is no act of misconduct from the Commission.

The petition written against the Commission is to be dismissed for lack of substance and deemed withdrawn. As the chairman of the NJC, you worth to be saluted because of your tremendous achievement within your short period of leading the mantle of leadership.

It should be noted that this rejoinder is not to join issue with the petitioner but to explain the true position of the matter.

It is a fundamental fact that Kwara State Judiciary is today headed by a time tested man of Honour, courage and integrity who with the support and encouragement of his brother Justices of the Kwara State High Court of Justice, has what it takes to lead the arm to the promised land.

Thanks.

Taofiq K. Olateju Esq.
08033215303

Cc:
Kwara State Governor

Chief Judge of Kwara State

Grand Khadi Shariah, Court of Appeal, Ilorin

The Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly

Kwara State Judicial Service Commission

Directorate State Security Services

Nigeria Bar Association

Barrister Muritala Sambo

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