Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad
The Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) has shortlisted 29 candidates in the ongoing appointment process to fill six vacancies on the Supreme Court bench.
All the 29 candidates are current Justices of the Court of Appeal, indicating that the push for appointment of lawyers directly from the bar to the Supreme Court bench has failed again.
The list is contained in a June 13, 2022 letter sent by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) requesting its members to comment on the suitability of the shortlisted candidates for the position on or before Monday.
The letter signed by the chairman, NBA Judiciary Committee, Babatunde Ajibade, and made public by the association on Monday, recalled that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and chairman of FJSC, Tanko Muhammad, had in a January 19, 2022 letter asked the association to nominate suitable candidates for the six slots on the Supreme Court bench.
PREMIUM Times reported that the CJN’s letter requested nominations of candidates from five geo-political zones with vacant slots on the bench – South-South, South-east, South-West, North-west, and North-central.
Following the CJN’s letter of request for nominations, the NBA, in a February 7, 2022 letter, called for the expression of interest from suitably qualified members from the relevant geo-political zones.
The NBA would later receive a letter dated May 27, 2022 with the list of shortlisted 29 candidates requesting members of the association to comment on the nominees’ suitability. No lawyer is among the 29 candidates, who are all serving judges of the Court of Appeal.
It is expected that the FJSC would draw another short list which would be sent to the National Judicial Council (NJC), also chaired by the CJN.
The NJC will make the final choice of the six candidates whom they will recommend to the President for appointment subject to the screening by the Senate.
If the process is concluded early, the appointment of six Justices will jerk up the number of Supreme Court judges from its current 15, including the CJN, to its full complement of 21, a feat the court has never achieved.
The all-judges list of candidates indicates that another push for appointment of Supreme Court judges directly from the bar has hit the rock.
It is the second time in a row that such push would fail.
Earlier in 2017, the then acting CJN Walter Onnoghen, had, in a similar fashion, like his successor, Mr Muhammad, written to the NBA, requesting that it nominated eligible members of the Bar for consideration into the apex court bench.
In response, the then NBA President, Abubakar Mahmoud, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, forwarded names of nine eligible lawyers to the then acting CJN and Chairman of the FJSC, Mr Onnoghen.
The nominated lawyers were – former President of the NBA, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Anthony Ikemefuna Idigbe (SAN), Yunus Ustas Usman (SAN), Babatunde Fagbohunlu (SAN), Miannaya Aja Essien (SAN), Awa Uma Kalu (SAN), Professor Awalu Hamish Yadudu, Tajudeen Oladoja and Ayuba Giwa.
But at the end of the process, only Court of Appeal judges were appointed, as the NBA’s list was jettisoned.
Reserving the Supreme Court bench for only Justices of the Court of Appeal is more of a norm adopted to guarantee career progression for judges. Legally speaking, the Nigerian Constitution opens the Supreme Court bench to any person who has been called to the Nigerian bar for at least 15 years.

But many judges have always argued that it would be unfair to appoint lawyers to the Supreme Court bench ahead of judges who took the early decision in their career to quit legal practice for a somewhat less lucrative judicial position at the High Court or even magisterial levels.
But those of opposing views say appointing lawyers from the bar and the academics with diverse background and experience in the various aspects of law will add much value to the decisions of the Supreme Court.
13th June 2022
Dear Colleagues,
RE: APPOINTMENT OF SIX (6) JUSTICES OF THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA
By a letter dated 19th January 2022, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, Federal Judicial Service Commission, Hon. Dr. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, CFR requested, from critical stakeholders including the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the nomination of suitable candidates for consideration for appointment as Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to fill six present and potential vacancies at the Supreme Court.
On 7th February 2022, the NBA invited the expression of interest from suitably qualified members from the relevant geo-political zones.
Further to the above, and pursuant to Rule III 4(i) and (iii) of the 2014 Revised National Judicial Council Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Record in Nigeria, the Chief Justice of Nigeria has by a letter dated 27th May 2022 requested the NBA to comment on the provisional shortlist of the nominated Candidates.
Please find below the provisional shortlist for your comments on their suitability or otherwise:
A. NORTH-CENTRAL GEO-POLITICAL ZONE
1. Hon. Justice Jummai Sankey, JCA
2. Hon. Justice Stephen Jonah Adah, JCA
3. Hon. Justice Sa’idu Tanko Hussain, JCA
4. Hon. Justice Ridwan M. Abdullahi, JCA
5. Hon. Justice Mohammed Baba Idris, JCA
B. NORTH-WEST GEO-POLITICAL ZONE
1. Hon. Justice Ali Abubakar Babandi Gumel, JCA
2. Hon. Justice Tani Yusuf Hassan, JCA
3. Hon. Justice Mohammed Lawal Shuaibu, JCA
4. Hon. Justice Jamilu Y. Tukur. JCA
5. Hon. Justice Balkisu Bello Aliyu, JCA
C. SOUTH-EAST GEO-POLITICAL ZONE
1. Hon. Justice Uzoamaka I. Ndukwe-Anyanwu, JCA

2. Hon. Justice Chidiebere N. Uwa, JCA
3. Hon. Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme, JCA
4. Hon. Justice Theresa N. Orji-Abadua, JCA
5. Hon. Justice Obande F. Ogbuinya, JCA
6. Hon. Justice Uchechukwu Onyemenam, JCA
7. Hon. Justice Onyekachi A. Otisi, JCA
8. Hon. Justice Ugochukwu A. Ogakwu, JCA
9. Hon. Justice Kenneth Ikechukwu Amadi, JCA
D. SOUTH-SOUTH GEO-POLITICAL ZONE
1. Hon. Justice Moore A. Abraham Adumein, JCA
2. Hon. Justice Biobele A. Georgewill, JCA
3. Hon. Justice Frederick O. Oho, JCA
4. Hon. Dr. Justice Abimbola O. Obaseki-Adejumo, JCA
5. Hon. Justice Ebiowei Tobi, JCA
E. SOUTH-WEST GEO-POLITICAL ZONE
1. Hon. Justice Oyebisi F. Omoleye, JCA
2. Hon. Justice Tunde O. Omotoye, JCA
3. Hon. Justice Habeeb A. O. Abiru, JCA
4. Hon. Justice Peter Olabisi Ige, JCA
5. Hon. Justice Joseph Olubunmi Kayode Oyewole, JCA
Members are enjoined to send in their comments and/or reservations not later than Monday, 27th June 2022 to the National Secretariat of the NBA addressed to:
The President Nigerian Bar Association c/o Grace Igyo, Esq.
Head, Legal Services Department
Nigerian Bar Association
National Secretariat
Plot 1101 Cadastral Zone A00 Central Business District Abuja.
Or send an email to:
legal@nigerianbar.org.ng
Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, SAN, FCIArb
Chairman, NBA Judiciary Committee

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