Kano Emirate Tussle: Why NJC must wield the big stick–Stakeholders


In this report, Ise-Oluwa Ige examines the background facts surrounding the legal  gymnastics that greeted the dethronement of the 15th Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado Bayero ; deconstructs the confusion that trailed the judicial enthronement of two emirs in the ancient city of Kano by judges of coordinate jurisdiction and harvests the perspectives of key stakeholders on the deprecated practice of judges struggling for jurisdiction in sensitive political cases.


Key stakeholders in the nation’s justice delivery system are piling pressure on the National Judicial Council, NJC, to quickly conclude its on-going investigations on how three high court judges, for weeks, engaged in an intense fight for jurisdiction over lawsuits on Kano emirate chieftaincy matter and wield its big stick, if necessary, to protect the integrity of the judiciary.

The NJC is a creation of section 153 of the 1999 Constitution with powers to hire and fire misfits from the bench.

Some of the stakeholders pushing the position are a firebrand rights activist and respected member of the inner bar, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, a renowned academic, Prof Auwalu Yadudu, and a respected silk, Prof Damilola Olawuyi, SAN, among several others.

Besides, the stakeholders also want the NJC headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola to investigate the circumstances surrounding how the Federal high court judges, in spite judicial precedent on the case, entered into the arena and began to issue conflicting rulings which turned the spotlight on the judiciary.

They are contending that the Supreme Court had, as far back as 1986, about 36 years ago, in the case of Alhaji Umar Abba Tukur V. The Governor of Gongola State held that the Federal high court is a court of limited jurisdiction that cannot pry into or struggle jurisdiction with a state high court on chieftaincy matters notwithstanding whether such a case is dressed in the garb of enforcement of fundamental human rights.

They further maintained that ordinarily, the decision of the Supreme Court should have been followed as a guide by the Federal high court particularly when the facts of the case decided by the superior court 36 years ago are similar to the facts of the instant case, but that the NJC needed to find out why some of the judges violated the principle of stare decisis in the case.

The judges sought to be investigated are two Federal high court judges— Justice Abdullahi Liman who has recently been elevated to the Court of Appeal and Justice Simon Amobeda with a judge of the Kano state high court—Justice Amina Adamu Aliyu.

Indeed, one of the stakeholders who is the NBA President, Y.K Mikyau, SAN is also of the view that the lawyers who filed the cases before the high court judges must also be investigated and be sanctioned by the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee of the Body of Benchers if found wanting to deter others who may be tempted to do same in future.

Genesis of the Crisis

After rich deliberations on its floor during plenary on May 23, 2024, the Kano State House of Assembly passed the Kano Emirates Council Law (repeal bill) 2024.

The new bill effectively repealed the immediate past Governor Abdullahi Ganduje’s Kano Emirate Council Law 2019, Kano State Emir’s Appointment and Deposition Amendment Law 2019 and Kano State Emirate Council Amendment Law 2023, which created five emirates in Kano and paved the way for the deposition of Sanusi four years ago.

Specifically, the new bill reverts the state’s highest ranking traditional institution to its former structure of one emir with all the offices established under the previous law abolished. It also reverts all district heads elevated or appointed under the repealed law to their previous positions.

The bill was transmitted to the state governor, Abba Kabir Yusuf, same day it was passed by the state lawmakers.

The state governor who promptly appended his signature to the bill to become law on the same May 23, 2024, at about 5:10pm thereafter dethroned the 15th Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado-Bayero who was installed by his predecessor, Ganduje.

The governor however gave the five former emirs, including Ado-Bayero, 48 hours to vacate all official residences and hand over former emirate properties to the deputy governor.

In what remains a mystery, few hours after the governor dethroned Ado Bayero, on Thursday, May 23, rumours had it that a Federal high court judge, Justice Mohammed Liman, had purportedly sat in far away United States of America (USA) and issued an exparte order to stop Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf from implementing the new Kano Emirates Council Law 2024 or reinstating Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II pending the determination of a substantive suit filed on the matter.

The case, it was later learnt, was filed by a member of the former Kano Emirate, Aminu Babba Dan’agundi, who challenged the removal of the 15th Emir, Aminu Ado Bayero, by the state governor.

Femi Falana, SAN had wondered why such a request by a busybody should be entertained by a law court when the dethroned Emirs who had the locus standi did not take any step.

But the governor who claimed he was not served the purported court order until Monday, May 27, 2024 went ahead on Friday, May 24, 2024  to reappoint Muhammadu Sanusi II as the 16th Emir of the ancient city of Kano on the strength of the new bill he signed into law the previous day and the recommendation of Kano kingmakers.

Judicial theatrics begin

That was the situation on Monday, May 27, 2024, when one Ibrahim Wangida, counsel to the Attorney-General of Kano State and the state House of Assembly approached the state high court with a request for an order directing Aminu Ado Bayero to stop parading himself as the 15th Emir of Kano and direct the police to evict him from the mini palace he was occupying on the State Road in Kano, a request that was granted.

The trial high court judge in the case, Justice Amina Adamu Aliyu also restrained the four dethroned emirs of Bichi, Rano, Gaya and Karaye from parading themselves as emirs.

However, rather than evicting Bayero as ordered, the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian Army under the control of the APC-led government, beefed security around Ado-Bayero in the mini-palace.

Less than 24 hours after Justice Aliyu of the Kano State High Court granted the order, Ado Bayero himself now ran before another Federal high court judge in Kano, Justice Simon Amobeda on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 for a counter order directing the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, and the Kano State Commissioner of Police, Hussain Gumel to evict the reinstated Sanusi from the Emir’s Palace in Kofar Kudu, a request that was granted.

But as soon as the Federal high court gave its fresh order, the new Emir and four kingmakers of Kano on same Tuesday, May 28, 2024, approached the state high court to stop the Kano State Commissioner of Police, the Inspector-General of Police, the director of DSS, the Chief of Defence Staff, and Aminu Ado Bayero from evicting the reinstated Sanusi from the Emir’s Palace in Kofar Kudu.

The same Justice Amina Aliyu of the Kano State High Court who heard the application granted the order restraining the police, the Department of State Services (DSS), and the Nigerian military from evicting  Sanusi from his palace. The judge also restrained the respondents from “attempting to hijack” the symbols of authority meant for the Emir of Kano pending the determination of the suit.

All through the legal gymnastics, the dethroned Emir, Ado Bayero and his supporters, who appear to have the backing of the APC-led Federal Government filed all their cases before the Federal Government high court while the Kano state government which reappointed Emir Sanusi II filed all its own cases before the Kano state high court.

NJC should step in, impose far reaching sanctions if necessary—Prof Olawuyi, SAN

Amid the conflicting rulings, both Ado-Bayero and Emir Sanusi remained in office till date since they both had favourable court orders recognizing them as authentic emirs.

According to a respected silk, Prof. Damilola Olawuyi (SAN), the events in Kano State are unfortunately another sad reflection of the level of decay and rot in the nation’s judicial system.

The silk said in the first place, a first-year Law student will tell you categorically that the Federal High Court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate on state traditional and chieftaincy matters, adding that though the case in question was cloaked in human rights garb, it is crystal clear that the subject matter and main gist of the case is the Kano State Emirates Council (Repeal) Law 2024, and not fundamental rights.

He said the way forward is for the NJC to urgently step in to review the role of the judiciary in the ongoing impasse in Kano and where judicial misconduct is found, there is a need to impose far-reaching sanctions on erring judges in order to set the record straight, correct ethical missteps and prevent future recurrence.

In spite CJN’s meeting with heads of the two courts, none of the judges hands off the case

Although, Chief Justice Olukayode Ariwoola summoned Justice John Tsoho, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, and Dije Aboki, Chief Judge of Kano State to a meeting to hear from the horses’ mouth why the judges under them intervened in the crisis in the way they did, the three judges—Justice Liman, Justice Amobeda and Justice Aliyu continued with the hearing of the separate but similar cases before them.

However, so far, besides the interim injunctions earlier granted by the first judge, Justice Aliyu of the Kano state high court, no ruling on the motion on notice by the Kano state high court to stop the deposed Emir Ado Bayero and four others from further parading themselves as emirs in the state had been delivered.

Justice Amobeda of the Federal high court, Kano, however has delivered a ruling on the rights enforcement suit filed by the dethroned Emir Ado-Bayero on June 14, 2024 and awarded N10million damages against Kano government in favour of the applicant on the account that the state government breached his rights by ordering his arrest without any justification.

Similarly, Justice Liman of the same Federal high court, in a ruling on the case, last Thursday, June 20, 2024, nullified the reinstatement of Muhammadu Sanusi II as the 16th Emir of Kano and all the actions taken after the controversial reinstatement. He however stated that his order does not affect the validity of the repealed Emirates Law.

Justifying the decision, Justice Liman held that he had listened to the audio of the governor both in Hausa and English after assenting to the law, and was convinced that the respondents were aware of the order of maintaining status quo pending the hearing and determination of the motions on notice in the court, adding that it is a very serious matter for anyone to flout the orders of the court and go scot free with it.

Although Justice Liman’s order was served on the governor on May 27, three days after Emir Sanusi was enthroned, the judge moved against the state government not on the basis of the served court order but on the purported audio of the governor when he was enthroning Sanusi as the 16h Emir of Kano.

Senior lawyers across the country, have however criticized last Thursday’s ruling by a Federal High Court in Kano which removed the 16th Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, from office.

For instance, renowned constitutional lawyer, Professor Auwalu Yadudu, said that Justice Liman’s ruling on the Kano Emirate crisis was unbecoming. “How can you say the actions taken pursuant to a law are set aside, and then say you are not delving into the validity of the said law?” he queried.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has similarly described the judicial orders in Kano State as an embarrassment to the judiciary. He said there was the need for higher courts to address the political and judicial confusion in both Kano and Rivers states.

“Sanusi was not said to have disobeyed any order, so if the order affected him, he ought to have been put on notice,” the Lagos lawyer said.

Falana further described the court’s stance as confusing with regard to the broader issue of the Supreme Court’s judgments on the limitations of Federal High Court powers over traditional institutions, explaining “To be a chief is not a fundamental right; it is a privilege, the reason NJC has to investigate the roles of the judges and come down heavily on any of them found wanting,” he added.

Another senior lawyer, who agreed to speak on the matter on the condition of anonymity, raised the alarm that some politicians in the country were using the Kano Emirate case not only to set the judiciary up for destruction but also to create political crisis in the state similar to what happened in the South-West during the First Republic.

The lawyer said Justice Liman, in the first place, has no subject-matter jurisdiction, under any guise, to entertain the matter, being a chieftaincy-related case since the Supreme Court had ruled in the case of Tukur V Governor of Gongola State that the Federal High Court has no jurisdiction in respect of chieftaincy matter, this particular case happens to be one of them.

He added: “Chieftaincy matter is not part of what is specified in section 251 of the 1999 Constitution as amended. It is an act of judicial impenitence for him to embark on this kind of journey when the precedent is very clear on it. Even if the applicant, in this case, claims to have come before the court by a way of fundamental human rights, the Supreme Court had also clearly said in that Tukur V Governor of Gongola State that applicant should approach a court that has full jurisdiction like the state High Court.”

The lawyer said the Kano emirate case has further dented the image of the judiciary and urged the NJC to publicize the outcome of its investigation and wield its big stick if anyone is found wanting.


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