THE National Judicial Council (NJC), at the weekend, indicted the presidency and state governors over issues surrounding the recall of suspended judicial officers.
This is just as the body cleared the air on the recall of judicial officers that were earlier directed to excuse themselves from performing judicial duties, pending the conclusion of investigation or determination of the cases filed against them.
A statement by the Director of Information of the Council, Soji Oye, said the NJC was particularly concerned about the statement issued by the Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla, that the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) had filed a Notice of Appeal against the ruling of Justice Jude Okeke of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, for discharging and acquitting Hon. Justice Adeniyi Ademola and 2 ORS on April 7, 2017.
“Contrary to the above statement, the Registry of the High Court of the FCT, Abuja, informed the Department of Information of the NJC that the Office of the AGF filed two Notices of Appeal in the Court; the first one on 7th April, 2017, against Justice Adeniyi Ademola, his wife, Olabowale Ademola and Joe Agi (SAN). The second one was filed on 6th of June, 2017, two days after the press release was issued by the NJC with additional grounds of appeal against only Justice Adeniyi Ademola,” the NJC spokesman stated.
Oye, in the statement entitled, Putting the Record Straight, said when the parties were invited by the FCT High Court for settlement of records to be transmitted to the Court of Appeal on April 18, 2017, the Appellant failed to turn up and the Registrar of the Court further adjourned the settlement of records to April 21, 2017, and invited all the parties, but the Appellant again did not come to Court.
According to the NJC, the 45 days allowed for compilation of record in all circumstances expired on 7th May, 2017, for the Registrar of the Lower Court and 22nd May, 2017, for the Appellant.
The Council noted that the Office of the AGF only filed additional grounds of appeal in the Court on Tuesday 6th June, 2017, three days after the press release by the Council that the judicial officers had been directed to resume their judicial duties.
The statement read in part: “For avoidance of doubt, by the rules of the Court of Appeal, there cannot be a proper appeal before the Court until parties have agreed and settled records before the Lower Court and transmit copies of such records to the Court of Appeal before an appeal number is given. It is only after an appeal number is given that an appeal is said to be entered in the Court of Appeal.
“The Council confirmed from Registry of the Court of Appeal that there is no such Appeal till date. The only matter that is pending is a Motion with Number CA/A/371M/CR/2019 filed by Joe Odey Agi (SAN) against the Federal Republic of Nigeria, seeking the dismissal of Appellant/Respondent appeal between the Federal Government of Nigeria Vs Joe Odey Agi for failure to transmit the Records from the Lower Court within 45 days.
“Council is constrained to say that some of the judicial officers that have been recommended for dismissal or compulsory retirement from office by the presidency or governors, have, not to date, been removed from office. But for suspension of the affected judicial officers from office by NJC, they would have to date been still performing their judicial duties.
“And these are officers that have been found culpable of gross misconduct by NJC after due process and diligent fact finding investigation by Council based on the Rule of Law enshrined in the 1999 Constitution”.
The statement said the NJC would soon issue an advertorial on the foregoing and list out the number of judicial officers that had been dismissed or compulsorily retired by the president or governors for gross misconduct or corrupt practices, on its recommendation, and also reprimanded by council by suspension or warning/caution.
Council reiterated that it would continue to support the President Buhari administration in its fight against corruption in all its ramifications in the federation; and in cleansing the Judiciary of corrupt judicial officers, under the purview of the 1999 Constitution and the principles of the Rule of Law enshrined therein.