BY DEMOLA AKINYEMI
RETIRING President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, said yesterday that like any human being he was subject to”human foibles”,declaring that he never, for a moment, regretted what he did. Justice Salami who retires October 15, said these during the presentation of a book in his honour organised by the Ilorin branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
The 570 page book was entitled: “Nigeria judiciary: Contemporary issues on administration of justice.” Justice Salami was full of praises to God for making him survive attempts to tarnish his image. Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ilorin branch, Rafiu Balogun, in his remarks urged the federal government to have a rethink on the Salami saga and recall the man who is now set for retirement next month.
He said, “We believe it is not too late to right the wrong because Salami has done this nation creditably well”.
The NBA chairman also said that the failure of the Federal Government to reinstate Salami as recommended by the National Judicial Council (NJC) is not acceptable to right thinking Nigerians saying it only portrays the Presidency as crying more than the bereaved in the matter.
Justice Salami touched by the outpouring of encomiums said: “All these encomiums that you have attributed to me I thank all for that. I know they came from the bottom of your heart. But don’t let us forget that it is not my acts but Allah that led me that way. Left to me I might have failed, but Allah guided me and I acted the way he wanted me to act.
“Like any human being I am subject to human foibles but with Allah behind me I succeeded in avoiding the temptation. Because it was a temptation which l refused to cave into.”
I will not go into details today but just to thank all of you for finding time to come and celebrate with us. I appreciate and love all of you members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ilorin branch.
“To my colleagues at the bench we thank God for your lives. They thought we are rebels but God is vindicating us now. Clara Ogunbiyi is already in Supreme Court, Ariwoola is also there. Kekereekun who was stigmatised is also in the Supreme Court and I pray that all of you will be abundantly rewarded and you will succeed and get to the pinnacle of the Nigerian judiciary. And the spirit you have now embraced will lead you there and when you are there disseminate the message because there is only one side to justice. The law applies to the fact and that is the decision of the court. Please do justice according to your conscience”.
“I am very grateful for the support you gave me during those days when we were writing answers to queries as if it was our work to be answering queries. You get one today we would answer it. Nweze would leave for Ilorin by the time he got to Ilorin he had got another one; but we were able to answer them.
“You are all aware of the call log issue, none of them, not a single one showed that I ever called Tinubu, Lai Mohammed the ACN chieftains they were referring to”.
We went to the tribunal with witnesses (experts) who were able to show the NJC that you could use my phone in my pocket to call somebody. The experts demonstrated it at NJC. You could use my phone which in my pocket to send text messages to another person. “All these call logs were fake, but we thank God we survived all the efforts to paint us black. A question was asked and I said Kastina-Alu called to ask me to dismiss Sokoto Appeal and he said no he didn’t call for that; that he called to say that the judgment had leaked. He testified before the NJC and I did my own.
“The chairman of the panel said that the information about leakage was derived from the petition written against me. There was nothing of such in the petition against me. There was not to say against my defence. Is it not in the absence of any evidence to the contrary they should accept my own. They never did that they said my own was unfounded. Did I go there for a tea party? So we just leave everything to God Almighty who is the final arbiter. I assure you all that in spite of what happened I am a very happy man. I have not for a moment, regretted what I did. I am very happy for what I did and I proud of what I did. I thank God Almighty.”
Earlier, former Attorney General of the Federation, Akin Olujimi (SAN), who was chairman at the event, berated the national body of lawyers; the NBA, for not having done’ enough’ in fighting for the reinstatement of Salami .
Olujimi, who is counsel to Salami in the legal battle over the suspension, berated his colleague silks and some of Salami’s colleagues in the Court of Appeal, arguing that several of them who first stood with the embattled PCA have abandoned him in the middle of the battle. He expressed fear it could have been due to financial inducement.
Said he: “I notice that the NBA Ilorin has made some resolutions on the matter and I note that the national body has also made some comments. But we are yet to see action from the NBA. I expect to see the national body actively involved in this action. The NBA is a very important body that you will rarely ignore. But at some point in time that body has not acted as it should.
“When the matter started, a few of our senior colleagues came out to say they are part of the struggle but after some time, the faded out. Money can be a bad thing; it can make you change. We know human rights activists all over the world and how the stand up to uphold what is right but here some of them have abandoned the cause of human rights. I am not saying this because I am his counsel; the truth is that the man did nothing wrong.
“The ruling party believes that once a matter is before the court, it must go their way and once you have a judge who is not working in their favour, they descend on him with fury. I know that Salami has not done anything wrong. It started in Sokoto where he discovered that a matter had been left unattended to for a long time and he decided to open the case, not knowing that it was kept in the cooler for certain reasons.
“I commend the Justices of the Court of Appeal who have identified with the truth in this struggle. It is Salami today; it could be any of you
tomorrow. When you stand with the truth, no harm can come your way. It is unfortunate that it is happening to your colleague and one would have thought that the only way to tackle the impunity would have been for all to stand up for the truth, but some would not.
“Nigeria is in trouble; indeed. The judiciary used to be seen as the hope of the common man but today it has become the hope of all men. Politicians besiege the courts everyday for several causes. They can do just anything to get what they want and it is unfortunate that the judiciary has allowed politicians to penetrate the courts and bring the court to disrepute.
“We talk of corruption in Nigeria today and we mention the court. We hear stories. When a judge takes money from a politician we hear, one way or the other because nothing can be secret for long. We know them and even if they do it in secret we know; because we hear. What I just want to say to them is that even if man does not know, God knows and one day you will stand before his judgment.
“The battle is still on and we expect that the wrong done to him would be corrected. The NJC has revoked his suspension and one would have expected them to recall him but they have failed in that regard. The matter of the discipline of a judge starts and ends with the NJC; that was where the former NJC got things wrong when it invited the President into the matter but now the new one has been able to identify that error; the President has nothing to do with the discipline of a judge.”
Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, expressed deep concerns that given the insinuations about the judiciary at the event, Nigeria was sitting literally on a keg of gunpowder.
Oloyede added that if what has happened to Salami is allowed to go unchecked, Nigerians should begin to find their ways out of the country.