By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, justified the actions he took regarding the removal of the embattled President of the Court of Appeal, PCA, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, from office, insisting that he acted in accordance with the 1999 constitution as amended.
Jonathan stated this on a day he urged Justice Adamu Bello of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to dismiss a suit entered against him by 11 legal practitioners under the aegis of the Registered Trustees of Centre for the Promotion of Arbitration.
Addressing the court through his lawyer, Mr. Matthew Echo, President Jonathan, alongside the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, yesterday, maintained that the plaintiffs “do not have the locus standi to commence and/or maintain this action and seek the reliefs endorsed in the motion on notice dated July 2, 2012, as they do not have sufficient interest in the matter to which the application relates.”
It would be recalled that the plaintiffs had in their suit, sought “an order of court directing the 3rd Defendant, National Judicial Council, NJC, to recall the 4th Defendant, Salami, to resume his duties as the President of the Court of Appeal forthwith.
“A declaration that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has no power whatsoever and/or howsoever to exercise disciplinary functions over the Justices of the Court of Appeal and/or Justice Isa Ayo Salami, the PCA.
“A declaration that the further reappointment and/ or approval of the extension of the tenure of the 5th Defendant (Justice Adamu) as the Acting PCA by the 1st Defendant (Jonathan), is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.”
As well as, “An order restraining the 5th defendant from further acting as the President of the Court of Appeal.”
The plaintiffs equally urged the court to, among other things, determine: “whether the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has any step to take within the provisions of sections 153 and 21 Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, in relation to the recall of Justice Salami as recommended by the NJC.”
Even as they prayed the court to go ahead and determine “whether the NJC’s three-man panel recommendation for the recall of Justice Salami has not put an end to all disputes in relation to his suspension/recall.”
Meanwhile, sequel to an oral application moved in court, yesterday, by counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr J. Akanike, Justice Bello struck out the name of the erstwhile Acting PCA, Justice Dalhatu Adamu, even as he adjourned till January 17, 2013, to enable all the parties in the matter to adopt their written addresses.
Justice Adamu’s name was expunged from the case owing to the fact that the NJC had already appointed Justice Zainab Bukachua to take over the affairs of the appellate court.
NJC, had in a written address it filed in support of the suit before the high court, argued that President Jonathan, was bereft of the constitutional powers to stop it from reinstating the suspended PCA, Justice Salami, just as it declared the re-appointment of Justice Adamu in his stead as illegal and unconstitutional.
According to NJC, “we submit that the exercise of disciplinary power and recall of a suspended Justice of the Court of Appeal is exclusively vested in the NJC by the constitution.
“By virtue of the combined provisions of sections 153, 158(1) of the constitution, and the NJC’s power to exercise disciplinary control over judicial officers contained in paragraph 21(1) of the part 1, third schedule of the constitution, the council is clothe with the power to suspend and recall the 4th Defendant (Salami) without any recourse to the president (the 1st Defendant).
“Section 158(1) of the constitution provides that “in exercising its power to make appointment or to exercise disciplinary control over persons…the NJC…, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or persons.
“The only instances the 3rd Defendant exercises its powers in conjunction with the President is in appointment and removal of judicial officers and do not extend to the 3rd Defendant’s disciplinary control over the judicial officers and reinstatement/ recalling of suspended judicial officers; these, we submit, are residual powers exercisable by the 3rd Defendant exclusively.
“My Lord, we therefore submit that it is within the constitutionally vested powers of the 3rd Defendant to recall/ reinstate the 4th Defendant as the President of the Court. We urge my lord to so hold and resolve this issue as argued in the plaintiffs’ favour.”