House of Reps passes motion to block CJN Ariwoola, CJ Baba-Yusuf from filling daughters in lopsided FCT judicial appointments

ABUJA- The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a resolution compelling the Nigerian judiciary to pause its ongoing replacement of 12 judges on the FCT High Court, moving quickly to rectify the nepotism and constitutional breach first exposed in a pair of stories by Peoples Gazette over the past week. 

The parliament’s motion Tuesday afternoon targeted Chief Judge Baba-Yusuf’s recent scheme to seat his daughter Maryam, as well as the daughter of Chief Justice Kayode Ariwoola Victoria Oluwakemi, as the newest judges in the nation’s capital. 

“This is a gross violation of the 1999 Constitution, which required staffing from the 36 states and the FCT,” lawmaker Enwo Igariwey said while moving the motion to stay the recruitment titled: “Urgent need to re-examine the list of proposed states to fill the 12 vacancies created to the disadvantage of others in the High Courts of FCT.” 

Mr Igariwey’s state, Ebonyi, was among the four states, alongside Imo, Abia and Bayelsa, The Gazette reported were left out of judicial appointments in the FCT High Court led by Mr Baba-Yusuf. Legal expert Chidi Odinkalu observed in his latest column that the controversial appointments undermined protests over poor pay in the judiciary. 

The Gazette found that recruiting the children of judiciary leaders also necessarily involved stunting the career progression of other magistrates from everyday households in at least four states, our findings showed. It was unclear why Messrs Ariwoola and Baba-Yusuf prioritised their daughters as judges from Oyo and Kogi, which, respectively, already had two judges on the FCT High Court, when Abia, Imo, Bayelsa and Ebonyi each has no single judge on the court and the Nigerian federal character policy codified in Chapter Two of the Constitution required staffing the 70-person bench equitably among citizens from the 36 states and the capital Abuja. 

Mr Baba-Yusuf has also accepted Munira Ibrahim Tanko, a junior magistrate and daughter of erstwhile Chief Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, as a candidate from Bauchi, a state that already has Babangida Hasan on the court. 

“The fact that the underlying philosophy of the Federal Character Commission principle is to provide equality of access in public service representations, curb dominance by one or few sections of the country, promote inclusiveness and national unity,” Mr Igariwey said, adding that he was overwhelmed by the controversy that greeted the matter after The Gazette reported it. “Violation of this principle of our Constitution may not only be destabilising but could open the floodgates to litigation.”

The motion was overwhelmingly adopted in a voice vote by Speaker Tajudeen Abbas, who subsequently referred it to the House Committee on FCT Judiciary. 

The Supreme Court and Mr Baba-Yusuf’s office both declined comments about how they would treat the House’s resolution.  

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