The Nigerian Judiciary experienced a quiet change of guard today as the country’s Chief Justice, Justice Walter Onnoghen, swore in Justice Abdul Kafarati as the new Chief Judge of the Nigerian High Court, Abuja.
A controversial judge, Justice Kafarati is replacing Justice Ibrahim Auta who retired from the Nigerian Judiciary last week.
A legal observer who is a practicing lawyer told SaharaReporters the unannounced swearing in of Justice Kafarati on a Saturday was suspect and shameful.
“The swearing in today, a Saturday, demonstrated that the top leadership of Nigeria’s judiciary wanted to perpetrate a scandal in secret. I assure you that if the event [swearing in] had been scheduled on a working day, some interests in the legal profession who are knowledgeable about Justice Kafarati’s antecedents could have voiced their opposition,” said the lawyer.
He added: “I’m dismayed that a character like Kafarati has ascended to the Federal High Court.”
A daily newspaper, the Punch, recently reported that Justice Kafarati was under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The EFCC denied the report, claiming that it had merely investigated the judge based on a petition, but had found no incriminating evidence against him.
With his elevation, Justice Kafarati now ranks immediately ahead of Justice Tsoho, a judge who gave a questionable ruling that sought to truncate a recall effort by voters in Kogi State against Senator Dino Melaye who represents Kogi West constituency. After Justice Tsoho, the next judge in line is Justice Binta Nyako, who is married to former Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State.