CJN Moves To Impose Chief Judge On Osun

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The
National Judicial Council (NJC) is enmeshed in another controversy: the
propriety of its imposition of Justice Bola Ojo as the chief judge-designate of
Osun State.
The
Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Aloma Mukhtar-led NJC is yet to resolve
ongoing controversy over the CJN’s refusal to swear in Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo
as a justice of the Court of Appeal (JCA) on the grounds of alleged mix-up in
her state of origin status, despite the approval granted by President Goodluck
Jonathan and the resolution of the Senate.

But
the NJC’s decision to impose a CJ on Osun State is causing ripples in the state
as its recommendation is contrary to the advice of the State Judicial Service
Commission (JSC) on the matter.

The
state JSC  had, by virtue of Part 11 section 6 (a) of the 1999
Constitution (as amended), recommended two judges for the post of CJ –justices
Joseph Oyewole and Bola Ojo  — following the retirement of the former
occupier of the post,  Justice Olaniyi Ojo, on Wednesday, November 7,
2012. At present, the state does not have any CJ or acting CJ.
Though
the former CJ retired on Wednesday without any fanfare, he did not hand over to
any successor while Governor Rauf Aregbesola was yet to make any pronouncement
on the issue.
Part
11 Section 6(a) of the constitution states, “The State Judicial Service
Commission shall have the power to advise the NJC on suitable persons for
nomination to the office of the CJ of the state”.
Justice
Ojo was the number-two judge to the outgone CJ while Justice Oyewole, an
indigene of the state, is a judge of the Lagos High Court in Ikeja. 
In
the exercise of this power, the state JSC had, in its 52-page memo to the NJC
on the matter, written “recommended” for Justice Oyewole and “recommendable”
for Justice Ojo.
The
state JSC had claimed that its recommendation was based on indigene, merit and
without any scandal, saying that it also consulted prominent senior advocates
of Nigeria (SANs) including Chief Afe Babalola, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Chief
Adegboyega Awomolo, Chief Akin Olujimi, and Mr. Dele Adesina who endorsed
Oyewole.
The
NJC had, however, in its last meeting on October 17 and 18, rejected the list
of the CJ nominees for Osun State alongside that of Adamawa and Kwara states
and asked the concerned states to submit another list on seniority basis.
But 
in a curious twist and without the advice of Osun State JSC , the NJC had, in a
letter received on November 1 and  signed by the CJN,   decided
to recommend Justice Ojo as the  CJ for Osun State. The letter was
addressed to Governor Rauf Aregbesola who subsequently forwarded it to the
state House of Assembly for its necessary consideration.
LEADERSHIP
further gathered that the CJN had also, in the letter under reference, directed
Justice Oyewole to transfer his service from Lagos State to Osun and
subsequently queued before the last judge in the state in order to attain
seniority status.
Incidentally,
the CJN’s directive on this seniority issue is contrary to section 24 of the
State High Court Law which states that the order of precedence on seniority
shall be determined by the state governor on the advice of the state JSC. The
directive is also contrary to section 81 (3) and 291 of the 1999 Constitution.
It
was further gathered that Justice Ojo and 12 other judges in the state had,
before the state JSC forwarded its recommendation to the NJC, sent a petition
to the CJN, alleging that Justice Oyewole should be advised to take a queue
behind the last judge before he could be considered.
The
effect of the development is that Justice Oyewole will lose 11 years seniority
having been appointed as a judge in 2011 and called to the Bar in 1986.
The
state Assembly is expected to meet on the recommendation on Tuesday.
Source:
Leadership

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