President Muhammadu Buhari has requested the senate to confirm Justice Adamu Abdul Kafarati as the substantive Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, nine months after he was appointed on acting capacity for the position.
In a letter addressed to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and read on the floor of the Senate, President Buhari sought urgent approval of the nominee by the senators.
The letter in part read: “In accordance with the provisions of Section 250 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, I write to request for the confirmation of the Senate, the appointment of Honourable Justice Adamu Abdul Kafarati as the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
“It is my hope that the distinguished senate will consider and confirm the nominee in its usual expeditious manner. Please accept, Senate President, the assurances of my highest consideration.”
Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen, took a proactive step to prevent judicial disorder on Saturday, September 16, 2017 to swear-in Justice Abdu Kafarati as acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
The CJN sworn-in Justice Kafarati who was then the next most senior Justice of the Federal High Court when Justice Ibrahim Auta was due to retire on Saturday September 16, 2017 after attaining mandatory retirement age; just as the Presidency failed to nominate successor to Justice Auta as the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court before that day.
The Senate had in March 8, 2018 urged President Buhari to forward nomination of Justice Kafarati to the upper legislative chamber for approval as substantive Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to avoid constitutional crisis.
It would be recalled that, in his remarks on September 16, 2017, after administering the oath, the CJN said: “The Federal High Court is a very critical court in the jurisprudence of Nigeria. It is very strategic.” He said the swearing-in was done during the weekend to avoid a vacuum in the leadership of the high court.
“That is why we are here today. Even if it has not been done before it has been done now,” Justice Onnoghen jokingly added.
In the same light, on March 8, 2018, the Senate President said the Federal High Court cannot be left to stay without a Chief Judge.
“The time to do the needful by the executive is fast running out. Once the Presidency forward his name to this chamber, his confirmation or approval will be made in dispatch to avoid crisis,’’ Saraki said.
The senate resolution followed the motion moved by the chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator David Umaru (APC Niger East), to draw the attention of his colleagues to looming crisis in the Federal High Court.
Senator Umaru said Justice Kafarati was appointed on September 16, 2017 to act as the Chief Judge for three months, and his acting capacity was subsequently renewed for another three months which is about to expire soon.
“Justice Kafarati’s acting capacity can no longer be renewed or extended. The Presidency is yet to forward his name for our approval or confirmation as required by the constitution,’’ he said.