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Jeopardised Judiciary

LAST February when the tiff between Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, and President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, became public, Salami had predicted, “chained reactions.” In a February 4 letter, he warned Katsina-Alu not to create a “dangerous precedent which may give rise to chained reactions.”

So much has happened since then. Salami went to court and the allegations he made against Katsina-Alu on oath remain unresolved even after the National Judicial Council, NJC, deliberated on them. The mediations are mainly to save the careers of the nation’s two top judicial officers, moves that are further jeopardising the judiciary.

We had in February suggested that they should resign to save the judiciary more embarrassment. Their continued stay in service keeps ridiculing the judiciary. The issues cannot be resolved by fellow judges, who feel that an indictment of the duo would create more than the “chained reaction” Salami promised.

Salami accused Katsina-Alu of trying to compromise the panel that heard the appeal on the gubernatorial election in Sokoto. He said an earlier NJC committee had indicted Katsina-Alu for interfering with the Sokoto case. “The appeal in the Sokoto gubernatorial election petition, which was pending before the Sokoto Court of Appeal was eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court on November 21, 2010 notwithstanding that the appeal was not before the Supreme Court,” Salami alleged in papers filed in court.

Salami alleges that the Sokoto issue is at the centre of the upheaval that had pitted the judiciary against itself. The attempt to move Salami to the Supreme Court in February, Salami alleged, was an effort to ease him out of the Court of Appeal, the final court for all electoral matters until later constitutional amendment made the Supreme Court the final arbiter on elections.

Justice Abdullahi Umar panel, a fact-finding body had seven points to consider – treatment of Sokoto governorship appeal petition; allegation of Salami that Katsina-Alu attempted to influence the Sokoto judgment; Senator Umaru Dahiru’s allegation against Salami on the purported leakage of the judgment of Sokoto governorship appeal panel, and the propriety of the Sokoto governorship appeal panel holding conference in Abuja and consulting Salami.

Other matters Umar’s panel looked into were attitude and conduct of justices who sat on the Sokoto appeal, petitions against Salami by ex-governors Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun) and Segun Oni (Ekiti) and Sunday Ojo-Williams over alleged phone calls by some counsel with Justice Salami; and the authenticity of call logs Oyinlola, Oni and Williams tendered before the NJC committee to establish a relationship between.

No conclusions were made. Some of the allegations were recommended for further investigation by other agencies. Justice Ibrahim Auta will re-examine the allegations to assist NJC to reach a decision.

Crafters of the Constitution were too trustful of our top judicial managers to adjudicate their own affairs. They never thought of a day the same officers, who preside over allegations of impropriety against others, would be on trial in this manner. The NJC Act should be amended for less complicated ways of disciplining the judiciary. While we are waiting for that, Katsina-Alu and Salami should resign.

The allegations against them though unproven, probably unprovable, are battering the judiciary, an institution we believe they cherish too much to allow their continued stay in office to keep diminishing it.


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