With about 38 days to the retirement of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, the National Judicial Council is set to convene an emergency meeting on the appointment of his successor.
Born on November 10, 1946, Justice Mohammed will leave office when he attains the mandatory retirement age of 70 on November 10, 2016.
The PUNCH learnt on Monday that the NJC, which met last Thursday when it recommended three judges for sanction, would not adhere to the normal three months’ interval before convening its next meeting to avoid a situation that could lead to a vacuum in the office of the CJN.
Our correspondent gathered that the NJC had scheduled to meet any moment from the time the Federal Judicial Service Commission completed its own bit of the appointment process.
It was also gathered that the FJSC would meet on the appointment of the next CJN on October 11 and 12, 2016.
A top source, who is familiar with the ongoing appointment process, said, “Once the FJSC completes its own bit next week, the NJC will take it up from there and make its own recommendations to the President, who will make the final appointment.
“The NJC is expected to meet soon after the FJSC finishes its own bit of it.
“The NJC has to quickly convene an emergency meeting as soon as possible so as to avoid any situation that can lead to a vacuum.”
The Acting Director, Information, NJC, Mr. Soji Oye, could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone indicated that it was not available on Monday.
The CJN is statutorily the Chairman of both the FJSC and the NJC.
Going by tradition and the NJC rules, the CJN commences the process of appointment of his successor by sending the names of the four most senior justices of the Supreme Court after him to the FJSC.
Seniority of Justices is by dates of appointment to the apex court’s bench.
The FJSC conducts interviews and other appointment procedures for the four justices.
It then sends two of the four nominees to the NJC, which also conducts similar procedures and forwards two of the names to the President.
The President then makes the final appointment by picking one of the two nominated by the NJC, though subject to the approval of the Senate.
Usually, the second in rank to the outgoing CJN emerges as the successor.
The Supreme Court bench, as currently constituted, has the CJN, Justice Mohammed, as the number one on the apex court’s bench and the head of the entire Nigerian judiciary.
Justice Walter Onnoghen, born in 1950 at Okurike, Biase Local Government Area of Cross River State, is the second in rank to Mohammed in order of seniority.
Justice Onnoghen was appointed to the Supreme Court bench in 2005.
The third in rank is Justice Tanko Muhammad, who was born on December 31, 1953 at Doguwa-Giade, Giade Local Government Area of Bauchi State.
Justice Muhammad was appointed to the apex court bench on January 7, 2007.
The number four on the apex court’s bench is Justice Suleiman Galadima, who was born in October, 1946 in Nasarawa State.
Justice Galadima, who is due to retire in October, 2016, was appointed to the Supreme Court bench in 2010.
The number five in rank is Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, who was born in Lagos State on March 22, 1951.
Justice Rhodes-Vivour became a Justice of the Supreme Court in 2010.
Earlier in the year, there was a surge of calls for appointment of the next CJN from outside the Supreme Court bench.
But in his first reaction to the calls while reading his address at the ceremony marking the commencement of the 2016/2017 Legal Year, held on September 19, the CJN ruled out appointing his successor from outside the Supreme Court’s bench.
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