The decision of the political powers that be in Rivers State to appoint the President of the Customary Court of Appeal as the Acting Chief Judge of the State does not rankle as much as the futile defence of the egregious desecration of clear constitutional provisions by learned gentlemen.
The legal truth that admits of no sophistry is that section 271(4) of the Constitution clearly permits the Governor of Rivers State to appoint only the most senior judge of the High Court to act whenever the office of the Chief Judge is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office.
Pupils of nursery schools do not need help to see or know that unless you are a current judge of the High Court, you cannot be made the Chief Judge of a State in Nigeria as the law stands today.
Justifying the illegal appointment of the President of the Customary Court of Appeal on the ground that he was originally appointed a high court judge almost borders on the irresponsible. Unless a person is on the nominal roll as a High Court judge he or she does not come within section 271 (4) of the Constitution and so cannot be appointed, and if appointed, the appointment in my view is null and void and with the greatest respect indefensible.
To show the utter unsoundness of the arguments in support of the action in Rivers State, one should only call attention to section 281(4) of the Constitution that provides that the most senior Judge of the customary court of Appeal should be appointed to act for the President of the Court of Appeal in the event of vacancy.
If the Constitution had intended that the most judicial officer be appointed as acting Chief Judge or Acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal in both cases, it would simply have said so. Express mention of one thing is the exclusion of the others in law.
I expect the decision to be reversed immediately. It is an ill-wind. Those who like to present themselves as champions of the rule of law should avoid taking any step that would expose them as being convenient advocates of the rule of law. The Constitution has suffered enough in the hands of latter-day democrats.
Written By Lawyer Bamidele Aturu