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.
A statement from the spokesperson of the NJC, Soji Oye, revealed that the meeting which commenced at 11am lasted till 5:30pm, 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 present was separately quizzed personally by the CJN for over an hour before he later read the riot act in a joint session with all of them,” the statement said.
“A damage to one jurisdiction is a damage to all,” the CJN, who was said to be visibly angry, was quoted as telling the judges. “We must, therefore, put an end to indiscriminate granting of ex parte 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 three judges and never shall we condone such act.”
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.
The statement was, however, silent on the identity of the affected judges.
Justice Muhammed also warned all the CJs to avoid unnecessarily assuming jurisdiction in matters with similar subjects and parties already before other courts, so as to protect the court from lawyers who were out for forum-shopping.
He advised them to work in tandem with all their judges to salvage the image of the judiciary.
The CJN warned the CJs to desist from the practice of designating newly appointed judicial officers as vacation judges and assigning complex cases to inexperienced judges.
He advised all heads of court to be current on the developments 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.
Justice Muhammed concluded that the judiciary would no longer condone indiscipline or allow any judge to tarnish the image of the judiciary.
The NJC is to invite all heads of courts to a meeting to re-emphasise the need for the judiciary to be circumspect on the issue of granting ex parte orders.
It will also meet and collaborate with the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on the same issue.