The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Tanko Muhammed, on Monday, held a marathon meeting with the six chief judges invited over the conflicting ex parte orders emanating from different judges across the country.
According to a statement from the spokesperson of the NJC, Soji Oye, revealed that the meeting which commenced at 11 am lasted till 5:30 pm, with the Chief Judge of the High Court of the FCT also in attendance.
He said the CJN first had a one-on-one interaction with the CJ of the FCT, Abuja, and then the CJs of Rivers, Kebbi, Cross River, Jigawa, Anambra, and Imo.
The Chief Judge of Delta was not present at the meeting.
Each of the CJs was separately quizzed personally by the CJN for over an hour, before later reading a riot act in a joint session with all of them.
A visibly angry CJN was reported to have stated that “damage to one jurisdiction is damage to all. We must therefore put an end to indiscriminate granting of exparte orders, conflicting judgments, or rulings occasioned by forum-shopping. Your job as Heads of Court is a sacred one, and it, therefore, includes you vicariously taking the sins of others. There must be an end to this nonsense. You shall henceforth take absolute charge in assigning cases or matters, especially political personally. We shall make an example with these three Judges and never shall we condone such act”.
He stated that three of the Judges who granted conflicting exparte orders have been invited to appear before the National Judicial Council to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for granting the conflicting exparte orders.
He warned the CJs to henceforth avoid the unnecessary assumption of jurisdiction in matters with similar subjects and parties already before another court, protect the court from lawyers that are out for forum shopping, and work in tandem with all their Judges to salvage the image of the Judiciary.
Hon. Dr. Justice Muhammad also warned the CJs from making newly appointed Judicial Officers vacation Judges and assigning complex cases to inexperienced Judges.
He revealed that all Heads of Courts will be invited to a meeting to re-emphasize the need for the Judiciary to be circumspect on the issue of granting exparte orders and will also meet with the NBA Leadership on the issue.
The CJN advised all Heads of Court to be current on the development in the polity and the Judgments delivered by Courts of various jurisdictions and to urgently issue practice direction to guide Judges in their various courts to avoid giving conflicting decisions.
He concluded that the Judiciary will no longer condone indiscipline or allow any Judge to tarnish the image of the Judiciary. Three of the judges who granted conflicting ex parte orders have been invited to appear before the NJC to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for granting such orders.
It will also meet and collaborate with the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on the same issue.