CJN summons two chief judges over conflicting court orders

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Olukayode Ariwoola, has summoned the chief judges of both the Kano State High Court and the Federal High Court over the conflicting court orders judges under them have issued in the past days concerning the emirate crisis in Kano.

According to a statement by the Director of Information of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Soji Oye, on Wednesday, Mr Ariwoola summoned John Tsoho, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, and Dije Aboki, Chief Judge of Kano State High Court, to an emergency meeting scheduled to hold on Thursday.

CJN Arowoola
CJN Arowoola

The CJN is the chairperson of the NJC, the body statutorily empowered to discipline erring judges.

Mr Oye said the CJN’s summons issued to the chief judges of Federal High Court and the Kano State High Court was to prepare the ground for a full scale probe.

“The meeting, a prelude to a comprehensive investigation by the NJC, aims to provide the Chief Justice of Nigeria with a thorough briefing on this troubling development,” the statement read.

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It added that there “is strong indication that the National Judicial Council will conduct an emergency meeting next week where the subject Judges are likely to be invited and subjected to serious investigations.”

Earlier on Wedesday, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) described the conduct of judges and lawyers involved in the issuance of the conflicting court orders with regard to the Kano emirate crisis as disgraceful, and called for a probe.

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Conflicting orders

PREMIUM TIMES earlier reports how the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) criticised the actions of lawyers and judges involved in issuing conflicting and court orders regarding the Kano emirate dispute.

Last Friday, Governor Abba Yusuf reinstated Lamido Sanusi as the sole Emir of Kano following the implementation of a new law. Mr Sanusi had been dethroned in March 2020 and replaced by Aminu Ado-Bayero under the administration of Abdullahi Ganduje.

The new law, which came into effect on Thursday, dissolved the four other emirate councils of Gaya, Karaye, Rano, and Bichi created by the previous administration, merging them into a single Kano emirate.

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Consequently, the governor dethroned the emirs of the four disbanded emirates and restored Mr Sanusi as the sole Emir of Kano on Friday.

This development has led to a series of conflicting and counter court orders favouring different parties in the dispute over the Kano Emir throne.

On the day of Mr Sanusi’s reappointment, the Federal High Court in Kano restrained the Kano State Government from implementing the new emirate law. Governor Yusuf, however, rejected the court order, citing that the judge who issued it was in the United States at the time.

Also, on Monday, the Kano State High Court ordered the police to evict Mr Ado-Bayero from the mini palace in Nasarawa, where he has been residing since his dethronement.

In a counter order on Tuesday, Federal High Court Judge S. Amobeda directed the police to evict the reinstated Mr Sanusi from the Emir’s Palace in Kofar Kudu.

Also, on Tuesday, the Kano State High Court Judge Amina Aliyu restrained the police, the State Security Service (SSS), and the Nigerian military from evicting Mr Sanusi from his palace.

The conflicting orders have created confusion and heightened tension in the state, providing the state government and security agencies with excuses to selectively enforce the orders based on their preferences between the warring parties.

The NBA, on Wednesday, calld on the chief judges of both the Federal High Court and the Kano State High Court to investigate the actions of the judges involved in issuing these conflicting orders and report their findings to the NJC, which is responsible for disciplining erring judges.

“I call on the respective heads of the courts of the judges concerned to take immediate steps to investigate their conduct for any possible abuse of their judicial offices and file a report with the NJC for necessary action,” the NBA President, Yakubu Maikyau wrote.

Regarding the lawyers involved, the NBA stated that it would investigate their conduct and, if necessary, commence disciplinary actions through the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee.

Conflicting court orders

Conflicting court orders from courts of coordinate jurisdiction are rife in Nigeria, particularly in cases involving politically exposed persons.

In December 2021, the NJC, then chaired by the CJN at the time, Tanko Muhammad, barred three judges from elevation to higher court for issuing conflicting court orders in a political case.

The affected judges were Okogbule Gbasam of the High Court of Rivers State, Nusirat Umar of the High Court of Kebbi State and Edem Kooffreh of the High Court of Cross River State.

Earlier this month, the NJC barred two judges from elevation to the Court of Appeal, although not because they issued conflicting court orders. The sanction was meted out to Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court and Godwin Brikins-Okolosi of the Delta State High Court for different infractions.

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