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Salami: Lawyers kick as Jonathan snubs NJC
President Goodluck Jonathan will not reinstate suspended Court of Appeal President Isa Ayo Salami as recommended by the National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Minister Muhammed Adoke said yesterday.
Recalling Justice Salami will be subjudice, he said.
The Attorney-General added that the President cannot take any action “until the judiciary puts its house in order”. . He spoke in Abuja during a ministerial briefing.
But prominent Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) faulted the reason adduced by the minister, which they described as “ridiculous” and “unfortunate”.
Mr. Emeka Ngige (SAN) said the AGF’s comment was “most unfortunate, very ridiculous and a slap on the face of the intelligent people in the country”.
He said the government was only crying more than the bereaved because it is not a defendant in the suit filed by Justice Salami.
“Firstly, the NJC that wrote to the President is a defendant in the case. It is like a defendant that is engaging in settlement with the plaintiff. The executive i.e the President and the AGF, are not parties to the suit. So, they cannot complain of subjudice. The reason given by government has exposed them to having been part of the plot ab-initio to remove Justice Salami because of his refusal to pervert the cause of Justice in Sokoto. It is now left for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to take this matter up. I believe, this time, complaint should be sent to the United Nations that judiciary in Nigeria is under serious attacks by the Executive.”
In former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Akin Olujinmi’s view, subjudice has no application to the issue at hand.
He explained that the mere filing of a writ by a certain person in court cannot stop the implementation of a constitutional action by a statutory body.
Besides, the SAN maintained that the suit being used as an excuse by the government is an abuse of court process, as the plaintiff lacks the locus standi.
“They are suits filed to frustrate the efforts to normalise the anomaly in the judiciary.
Such suits can never prevent a legitimate action by the President. Subjudice has its own limitation; it is not absolute.
Adoke said at the ministerial briefing: “On the issue of Justice Salami, I want to say that there is a lot of misconception, and in order to clear that misconception I will make some few explanations.
“The matter is in court and presently sub judice. So, I will not attempt to go into the merit of the case. On 20th August 2011, the Federal Government that is Mr. President, received a letter from the NJC informing Mr. President that Justice Salami has been suspended and recommended for retirement by forwarding the recommendation to the National Assembly. We took a good look at the letter from the NJC we recognised the fact that the NJC has the independence and the powers to suspend Justice Salami, but we put on hold the issue of the recommendation to the National Assembly to have him retired fully because we took cognisance of the fact that Justice Salami went to court and this government is a government that believes in the Rule of Law and due process. We believe in it. Rather than do anything, the President did in exercise of his power under Section 238 (4) of the CFRN, appointing an acting PCA so as not to create a void in the leadership of the Court. There has been nothing that has changed before then for people to accuse the government of not complying with the resolution of the NJC. Now there has been recently , I think on the 11th May, the NJC was said to have recalled Justice Salami. It was just this Friday that the Federal Government received the letter from the NJC, notifying it that Justice Salami was being recalled and on that day, the Federal Government was also in receipt of litigation by way of originating summons and processes challenging the powers of the NJC and seeking an order restraining the President from giving effect to that resolution of the NJC. So, as it is today , the matter is subjudice. No responsible government , I repeat with emphasis, will try to overreach the court. This government is prepared to do the right thing and will do the right thing as soon as the judiciary puts its house in order and the matter is resolved expeditiously. I think that settles the matter.”
Adoke confirmed The Nation’s exclusive story published yesterday that the Federal Government had sent the House of Representatives Petroleum subsidy probe report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to enable the commission carry out its own investigations and prosecute persons involved in the crime.
He promised that there would be no sacred cow on the matter.
According to Adoke, same misconception that trailed Justice Salami’s case have been extended to Ibori’s conviction in London with the condemnation of the Nigerian judiciary by the uninformed.
“The fact that Ibori was convicted there does not in any way discredit the Nigerian judiciary because they have used plea bargain in securing his conviction,” he said.
He said if plea bargain was applied here in the Ibori case, Nigerians would have condemned it.
The AGF also said that the Federal Government is judiciously implementing the white paper on the death of Mohammed Yusuf, the slain leader of Boko Harm who was allegedly killed by policemen in Maiduguri.
Justice Salami was suspended by the NJC on August 18, last year, following his refusal to apologise to the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu for allegedly lying on oath against him.
He had accused the former CJN of asking him to compromise the Sokoto Court of Appeal hearing the appeal of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) in favour of Governor Aliyu Wamakko.
The committee headed by Justice Aloma Mukhtar was saddled with the responsibility of reconciling Justice Katsina-Alu and Justice Salami.
It was also asked to review the recommendations of a 29-member stakeholders’ Judicial Reform Committee raised by CJN Justice Dahiru Musdapher on October 14 to review the crises in the judiciary recommended Justice Salami’s reinstatement.
The committee was headed by a former CJN, Justice Muhammadu Uwais.
A sub-committee of the panel, including Justice Mamman Nasir, Justice U. Kalgo and Justice Bola Ajia, had asked the CJN and the NJC to reinstate Justice Salami to his position.
The Committee upheld the decisions of the sub-committee and recommended Justice Salami’s reinstatement.
Justice Salami is billed for retirement next year.
The Committee also recommended Justice Salami’s reconciliation with Justice Katsina-Alu.
It advised Justice Salami to withdraw all the cases he has instituted in court as part of the reconciliation being sought in the judiciary.”
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