House Of Reps Order FCT Chief Judge To Stop Recruitment Of Staff

The House of Representatives has directed the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to suspend the ongoing recruitment process for the 12 vacancies within the Territory’s High Courts until there is adherence to the Federal Character principle and quota system. This decision stemmed from a motion of urgent national public importance raised by Rep. Igariwey Iduma-Enwo (PDP, Ebonyi) during Tuesday’s plenary session.

In his presentation, the lawmaker emphasized the significance of the High Court as one of the judicial institutions in the FCT, established under Section 255 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. He highlighted the recent uproar from both the media and civil society regarding the proposed list of states designated to fill the 12 vacant positions within the High Courts of the Federal Capital Territory.

Furthermore, Rep. Iduma-Enwo pointed out that there are widespread concerns within the public domain regarding the composition of the proposed list, which is slated to be forwarded to the National Judicial Council (NJC) by February 19, 2024, for assessment and subsequently to the Senate for confirmation.

He also observed that information in the public space is to the effect that the proposed list is expected to be sent to the National Judicial Council by February 19, 2024, for vetting by the NJC, and subsequently to the Senate for confirmation.

According to him; “under the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja (Number of Judges) Act 2003, the principle of Federal character of Nigeria, shall be applied in the appointment of Judges of the Court; implying that the number of judges of the FCT High Court must always reflect the 36 states and the FCT.”

Iduma-Enwo expressed concern that while every state of the federation has judges from their respective states appointed in the FCT High Court system, four states, namely, Ebonyi, Abia, Imo, and Bayelsa, do not have a single indigene from their states appointed and sitting in the FCT High Court system.

“Worried that Ebonyi State, in particular, is doubly discriminated against in that it has none of its judges appointed in the High Courts of the FCT, and yet was not listed as one of the states to apply for the vacant 12 positions sought to be filled.

“Further aware that according to the FCT website, at least 7 Magistrates from the four unrepresented states of Ebonyi, Abia, Imo, and Bayelsa are currently qualified, and working in the FCT Court system as Magistrates, in addition to qualified private legal practitioners from these states who are willing and eager to apply to fill these vacant positions.

“Concerned that the non-representation of judges from 4 states in the High Court System of the FCT, when some others have as many as 3 judges representing them, is a gross violation of S14(3) of the 1999 constitution which requires staffing from the 36 states and the FCT.

“Cognizant of 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. Violation of this principle of our constitution may not only be destabilising but could open the floodgates to litigation,” he argued.

While ruling on the motion after the adoption, the presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu referred it to the Committees on FCT Judiciary and Judiciary for investigation of the Federal Character approval granted for the purpose and the extent of compliance thereto.