By Daniel Edu
The National Judicial Council (NJC) has categorically denied allegations suggesting the transfer of its statutory powers and responsibilities to state governors in relation to the appointment and advancement of judges.
In an official statement issued on Sunday by its spokesperson, Soji Oye, the NJC reacted to a viral document dated July 14, 2023, purportedly bearing the signature of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and NJC Chairman, Olukayode Ariwoola.
Reportedly, the said document advocated for the appointment of Justice Umar Abubakar as the substantive Chief Judge of Kebbi state, outlining specific directives concerning the hierarchy of seniority.
However, the NJC’s statement firmly established that Justice Ariwoola had not endorsed the fraudulent letter and that it had not originated from either the CJN or the council.
The NJC further asserted that the appointment of the Head of Court/Chief Judge remains within the realm of political appointments, falling under the jurisdiction of state governors.
The council conveyed its initiative to bring the unfortunate incident to the attention of relevant law enforcement agencies, urging them to conduct a thorough investigation to identify and apprehend those responsible for the deceptive letter.
The official statement articulated, “The counterfeit letter titled ‘Order of Seniority of Judges of the High Court of Kebbi state and recommendation of Justice Umar Abubakar as the substantive chief judge of Kebbi state,’ directed to the chief judge, posited that ‘under section 10 of the existing law of Kebbi state 1996, His Excellency, the governor, has the power to determine seniority of judges and the NJC has no power to override or reverse the decision of His Excellency.'”
“It further indicated that the office of the head of court/chief judge is purely a political appointment to be decided by the governor of a state.”
“For the sake of clarity and to dispel any doubt, the NJC unequivocally repudiates the letter, as it lacks any element of truth. No such letter ever originated from the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria or the National Judicial Council.”
“The public is urged to disregard the letter and its contents.”