With 20 Days To Leave Office, Katsina-Alu Is Making No Arrangement To Hand Over, Constitutional Crisis Imminent

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On Sunday 28th August, 2011 Hon. Justice Ignatius Katsina-Alu, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) will by his own doctored age, will be 70 years. On that date by the provisions of Section 291 the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) he will cease to perform the duties of CJN.

Traditionally an outgoing CJN is expected to start the process of handing over to his successor at least 3 months to expiration of his tenure. He does this by writing a letter to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) intimating the Commission of the impending date of his retirement. He is expected to mention names of likely candidates to take over from him for the office in question. The FJSC upon receiving the letter will consider the names suggested and will in turn recommend one or more names by way of Advice to the National Judicial Council (NJC).

At NJC, the recommended name/s will be considered and one of them will be selected and then forwarded to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for his consideration. If the President accepts the recommended candidate, he will in turn forward the name to the Senate of Federal Republic of Nigeria for confirmation after which the candidate if confirmed is sworn in as the CJN. The provisions in Section 231 of the Constitution and the 3rd Schedule Paragraph 13 of the Constitution cover these procedural steps.

As at date, the outgoing CJN is yet to notify the FJSC of his impending retirement on 28th August 2011. He is yet to send to the body the name or names of persons that will succeed him as CJN for advice to NJC. NJC meeting is fixed for Tuesday 9th August 2011 but for a different agenda dear to Katsina-Alu’s heart; to consider Justice Ibrahim Auta’s report on Umaru Abdullahi report on the face- off between the CJN and the President of Court of Appeal (PCA) Justice Isa Ayo Salami. What this portends is that by August 28th 2011, Nigeria will be without a CJN and if anything happens there will be a constitutional crisis.

Meanwhile, sources in the Supreme Court indicate that the CJN is banking on getting an extension of tenure from President Jonathan.  It is gathered that the Attorney General of the Federation. Bello Adoke, SAN has assured Katsina-Alu that tenure extension is possible. How this could be done is still difficult to fathom.

In another development the CJN has brought forward the date of swearing in of the newly appointed Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) from the originally scheduled 19th September to August 26th 2011. It is understood that CJN is scared that if he fails to secure a tenure extension and leaves office by August 28th, chances are that some of the proposed SANs like Yahaya Mahmood who was used to in the Sokoto case against Justice Salami will not be sworn in September. The Nigerian Bar Association in its recent report on the face off between  CJN and PCA had indicted Yahaya Mahmood and recommended that he face disciplinary action for professional misconduct.

Sources in the Supreme Court also indicate that Katsina-Alu is not keen in recommending his no 2, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, as his successor should the tenure elongation bid fail. It is gathered that the relationship between two justices has become frosty because of the former’s tenure elongation bid. Dahiru Musdapher it should be recalled stuck out his neck for the CJN by lying before NJC panel led by Umaru Abdullahi that Katsina-Alu did not direct Justice Salami to pervert cause of justice in the Sokoto case.

Judicial watchers are watching the developments with bated breath

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