BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
DETERMINED to purge itself and evolve into an arm of government to emulate in the ongoing war against graft and corruption in the country, the Judiciary, has once again, put machinery in place to enable it ferret and terminate the appointment of some questionable characters that found their way into the Bench.
It is not a fact in dispute that some of the Judges currently into the business of dispute adjudication in Nigeria are extremely very corrupt.
Whereas some of them not only handle their job as a no-man’s-business, others, aside elevating themselves to a ‘god-status’, treating court users with glaring indifference, a situation that often see litigants and lawyers waiting endlessly in the open court for a Judge who may be having a nice time somewhere or sleeping inside his chambers.
For some of them, once you don’t belong to the class of judicial ‘money-bags’, no matter how eloquent or legally superior your submissions are, you must as a matter of necessity, engage the service of a ‘behind-the-court’ negotiator, who chips in favourable words about you during cocktail parties- which are becoming too frequent these days.
Gone are the days when Judges are hardly seen in social gatherings. These days, it is not uncommon to meet a sitting Judge at a kid’s birthday party.
As it stands today, there are over 90 petitions pending against several Judges across the federation, with about 25 judges currently under the probing lens of the National Judicial Council, NJC.
Undisputedly, no administration in the judiciary has ever made attempt to fight corruption like the present Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, whose regime has seen the sack of about seven Judges within a period of barely two years.
Even though only high court Judges have so far fallen under the sweeping broom of transformation within the Judiciary, fact remains that bad eggs equally abound at other level of the court.
Last week Thursday, the pruning axe of the NJC, descended on two high court Justices after they were found guilty of judicial misconducts.
At the end of a meeting it held in Abuja, the Council which is headed by the CJN, okayed their compulsory retirement from office.
Specifically, the NJC, ordered that Justices G.K. Olotu of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court and Justice U. A. Inyang of High Court of Justice of the Federal Capital Territory, should forthwith vacate their various offices.
In a letter it wrote to President Goodluck Jonathan to fulfill all righteousness, the Council, maintained that the two Justices should not be allowed to adjudicate in any court in the country, stressing that pursuant to its findings, they ought not to sit on the Bench.
Their sack, according to a press release that was signed by the acting Director of Information at the NJC, Mr Soji Oye, was based on the outcome of petitions that were written against them.
NJC insisted that Justice Olotu, breached the laid down judicial procedure by delivering a judgment in a case with Suit No. FHC/UY/250/2003, eighteen months after the final address by Counsel to parties in the suit, contrary to the Constitutional provisions that Judgment should be delivered within a period of 90 days.
”The Hon. Judge admitted before the Fact Finding Committee of the Council that investigated the allegations that she forgot she had a pending ruling to deliver in an application for joinder, and the Judge entertained a post judgment matter in Suit No. FHC/UY/CS/250/2003 in Port Harcourt after delivering Judgment, which made her functus-officio.
“That in another case: Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/505/2012, Hon. Justice Olotu failed to deliver judgment twice”, the Council stated.
It further disclosed that Justice Inyang, was also recommended for compulsory retirement from office owing to the findings of the Council that, “the Judge included in his Judgment, references to the Garnishee Proceedings, which came after the judgment had been delivered on 20th December, 2011.
”That His Lordship also included the name of the Counsel to Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Chief Chukwuma Ekomaru, SAN, who came into the matter after the judgment of 20th December, 2011 was delivered.
”That the Judge recklessly signed a writ of execution, a day after delivering his judgment of 20th December, 2011, the same day a Notice of Appeal and Motion on Notice for Stay of Execution were filed.
”That the Judge continued with the garnishee proceedings despite application for stay of execution; and that before delivering his judgment of 20th December, 2011, Hon. Justice Inyang ignored a properly filed motion on notice for leave to file additional witness Statement on Oath.”
Meantime, the NJC, said it has in the exercise of its disciplinary powers under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, suspended the two Judges from office with immediate effect.
The Council equally issued warning letters to former acting President of the Court of Appeal who is currently the presiding Justice of Court of Appeal Kaduna Division, Justice Dalhatu Adamu.
Justice Adamu, who temporarily took over after the erstwhile PCA, Justice Isa Ayo Salami was suspended from office, was specifically reprimanded after it was found that he deliberately absented himself from duty, an action the NJC said amounted to gross misconduct contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended and the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Other that were issued stern warning by the Council included Justice A. A. Adeleye of High Court of Justice, Ekiti State and Justice D. O. Amaechina of High Court of Justice, Anambra State, respectively.
It will be recalled that Council, at its meeting held on the 4th and 5th of December, 2013, considered and deliberated on the report of its five-man committee who were mandated to invite judicial officers with very low performance or non-performance, to appear before it.
According to the NJC, “At the end of deliberation on the report of the committee, Council found Hon. Justice A. A. Adeleye of High Court of Justice, Ekiti State and Hon. Justice D. O. Amaechina of High Court of Justice, Anambra State, respectively culpable of very low performance. Consequently, Council decided to issue warning letters to them for decline in their productivity.”
With the tenure of the CJN gradually winding up, it is still the earnest desire of Nigerians to have an independent corrupt free judiciary, especially as 2015 election looms with the antecedent unavoidable disputes that must follow.