The National Judicial Council has sent 30 names to President Muhammadu Buhari for confirmation as judges of the Federal High Court.
It was gathered that external influences forced the NJC to send 30 names for the President’s confirmation instead of 25 which the Federal High Court originally applied for.
A source, who is familiar with the appointment process, told The PUNCH on Sunday that the NJC, at its meeting on November 5, approved the final shortlist from the 50 names forwarded to it by the Federal Judicial Service Commission.
“Eventually, instead of the 25 that the Federal High Court requested, the NJC had to send 30 names to accommodate the candidates of some influential people in the judiciary,” the source said.
The Special Assistant to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Mr. Ambrose Unaeze, had in June 2015, declared that the court sought approval for 25 judges.
The court also advertised on its website the call for nomination of eligible candidates for 25 vacant positions on the court’s bench.
Sources said instead of shortlisting 25 from the list of 50 names sent to it from the FJSC, the NJC had to bend its rules which allowed it to shortlist only half of the names forwarded to it, to send 30 names to Buhari.
Sources, who are familiar with the process of appointment of the judges-designate, said the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, who requested 25 judges had interviewed nominees among whom 100 names were shortlisted and forwarded to the FJSC.
The FJSC also conducted further interview to prune down the number from 100 to 50 and forwarded the names of the successful ones to the NJC.
At the end, the NJC would have to put the 50 nominees through further processes to select 25 whose names would be sent to President Buhari for appointment.
But at the end of the ongoing process, it was learnt that the NJC sent 30 names instead of 25 to the President.
Earlier response to our correspondent’s request for information on the ongoing appointment process confirmed that nominations for the 25 vacant positions opened on December 19, 2014 and closed in the first week of February 2015.
In the response by Justice Auta through his Special Assistant, 613 lawyers were said to have applied for the vacant positions.
The Federal High Court currently has 55 judges in about 38 divisions of the court across the federation.