By Ononye VC
The Chief Judge of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad has, on Monday, grilled seven Chief Judges of different states over conflicting court orders emanating from their jurisdiction.
Consequent upon the situation, the National Judicial Council (NJC), presided over by CJN Muhammad Tanko, ordered the probe of three judges who granting ex-parte orders that embarrassed the judiciary.
It would be recalled that recently, the CJN summoned the Chief Judge of Anambra State alongside other Chief Judges over conflicting court orders in their jurisdiction.
He issued the summons last Monday in a statement that had read in part:
“My attention has been drawn to media reports to the effect that some Courts of coordinate jurisdiction were granting conflicting ex-parte orders on the same subject matter.
“It has become expedient for me to invite you for a detailed briefing on the development.
“This is even more compelling having regard to earlier NJC Warning to judicial officers on the need to be circumspect in granting ex-parte applications.”
During the query earlier in the day, the CJN reportedly came down hard on the Chief Judges and ordered that three of them face judicial probe.
The affected Chief Judges were those of the Federal Capital Territory, Rivers, Kebbi, Cross River, Jigawa, Anambra and Imo State.
The visibly angry CJN said: “A damage to one jurisdiction is a damage to all. We must therefore put an end to indiscriminate granting of exparte orders, conflicting judgements 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”.
According to a statement issued by the Director of Information at the NJC, Mr Soji Oye, the NJC will meet with all Heads of Court in the Country and leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) over abuse of the judicial process by some judges.
“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”, the statement noted.
It further revealed that the three Judges have been invited to appear before the NJC to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for granting the conflicting exparte orders.
“The CJN warned the CJs to henceforth avoid unnecessary assumption of jurisdiction in matters with similar subject 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 reemphasize 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 information, decisions.
“He concluded that the Judiciary will no longer condone indiscipline or allow any Judge to tarnish the image of the Judiciary”, the statement read.