CJN Invites Chief Judges Over Clashing Orders

Six Chief Judges have been summoned by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad to explain the reason for the clashing orders emanating from their courts.

Invited are chief judges of Rivers, Kebbi, Cross River, Anambra, Jigawa and Imo states.

The CJN requested the meeting on Monday in his power as the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC).

By the summons, the affected chief judges are to first appear before CJN, ahead of  their appearance before the NJC to explain what informed the issuance of conflicting orders by courts of coordinate jurisdiction under their watch.

The CJN, it was learnt, frowned at the embarrassment caused the Judiciary by the actions of the judges behind the conflicting ex-parte orders in relation to cases on disputes in some political parties.

Ahuraka Yusuf Isah, the media aide to the CJN, confirmed that Justice Muhammad issued the summons in his capacity as the NJC chairman.

It was gathered that that the meeting between the CJN and the affected Heads of Courts would hold this week before their appearance before the NJC sometime next week.

The decision by the CJN to issue the summons, it was learnt, was intended to halt what has become an embarrassment to the Judiciary in the past few weeks.

Part of summons reads: “My attention has been drawn to media reports to the effect that some courts of coordinate jurisdiction were granting conflicting ex-parte orders on the same subject matter

“It has become expedient for me to invite you for a detailed briefing on the development.

“This is even more compelling having regard to earlier NJC warning to judicial officers on the need to be circumspect in granting ex-parte applications.”

According to The Nation, the decision to summon the Chief Judges was at the volition of the leadership of the Judiciary as there has been no formal complaint against any of the judges.

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The source said: “It should be noted that no member of the public laid any complaint against any of the judges over the conflicting court orders.

“The CJN is summoning the Chief Judges to halt the drift, which is putting the judiciary in further bad light. The public ought to have filed petitions at the NJC against the judges.”

The CJN was not specific on the cases in which such conflicting ex-parte orders were handed out.

In the past few weeks, three High Courts in Rivers, Kebbi and Cross River issued conflicting orders in respect of the current leadership crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The first was issued on August 23 by Justice Okogbule Gbasam, a vacation judge in the Degema division of the High Court of Rivers State in a suit marked: PHC/2183/CS/2021 filed by Ibeawuchi Alex, Dennis Amadi, Emmanuel Stephen, and Umezerike Onucha against Secondus and th PDP (as defendants).

Justice Gbasam, after listening to applicants’ lawyer, Henry Bello, made an order restraining Secondus from parading himself as a member or the National Chairman of the PDP.

The judge barred Secondus from performing the functions of the National Chairman of the party “or calling, attending or presiding over any meeting of the 2nd defendant (PDP) or any committee of the 2nd defendant at the Ward, Local Government or State level.”

He equally restrained Secondus from calling for any ward, local government or state congress of the PDP or setting up committees for such congresses or participating in any activity of the 2nd defendant whatsoever.

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Justice Gbasam added that Secondus must not take any of these actions “whilst on suspension as a member of the 2nd defendant pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”

On August 26, Justice Nusirat Umar, also a vacation judge of the High Court of Kebbi State in Birnin Kebbi, gave an ex-parte order staying the execution of the Rivers State High Court’s orders removing Secondus from office.

Justice Umar gave the order while ruling in a suit marked: KB/HC/M. 170/2021 filed by three concerned members of the PDP –  Yahaya Usman, Abubakar Mohammed and Bashar Suleman – with Secondus and the PDP  defendants.

The judge, after hearing the counsel to the applicants, Ibrahim Jibril, proceeded to grant “an order of interim injunction staying the purported suspension of the first respondent (Uche Secondus) pending the determination of the substantive motion on notice No: KB/HC/M.170/2021 now pending before this honourable court.

“An order of this honourable court granting leave to the first respondent (Uche Secondus) to continue exercising all the constitutional powers of the office of Chairman of PDP (second defendant) as enshrined in both 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended and the Peoples Democratic Party’s constitution pending the hearing and final determination of applicant’s motion on notice.”

On August 27, Justice Edem Kooffreh, a vacation judge in the High Court of Cross Rivers State in Calabar restored the order by the Rivers State High Court in n ex-parte ruling on a suit, marked HC/240/2021n filed by Enang Wani.

Justice Kooffreh barred Secondus from resuming or visiting the party’s office as Chairman.

The judge said: “An order of interim injunction restraining the first defendant (Secondus) from presiding over the national executive committee meeting of the 2nd defendant scheduled to hold on Saturday, the 28th of August, 2012 or any subsequent meeting of the national executive committee of the second defendant and from presiding over any meeting of any organ of the second defendant or attending any of such meetings of functions in the capacity of national chairman of the party or in any other manner or form attempting to forcefully gain entrance into any such meetings or into the premises of the second defendant as national chairman of the party pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

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“An order of interim injunction restraining the second defendant, its members, officers and agents from recognising the first defendant as its national chairman or from according him any of the powers, rights or privileges due to the holder of the office of the national chairman of the 2nd defendant pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”

A similar scenario played out last year, preparatory to the exit of Adams Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) last year.

On March 5, 2020 Justice Lewis Allagoa of the Federal High Court in Kano gave an ex-parte order purporting to reverse an earlier order by Justice Danlami Senchi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) which sacked Oshiomhole following his suspension by the APC in his Ward 10 Etsako West Local Government.

The dispute caused by the clashing orders was only put to rest in a judgment given on June 16, 2020  by the Court of Appeal in Abuja, upholding Justice Senchi’s earlier order.

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