August 19, 2011

Kastina-Alu vs Salami: NJC suspends Salami indefinitely

Kastina-Alu vs Salami: NJC suspends Salami indefinitely

…Justice Salami

By By Innocent Anaba, Abdulwahab Abdulah, DAPO AKINREFON & Ikechukwu Nnochiri ABUJA — Following his refusal to apologise to either the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu or the council for allegedly lying on oath, the National Judicial Council, NJC, yesterday, wielded the big stick against the embattled President of the Court of Appeal, PCA, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, by handing him an indefinite suspension.

The council specifically ordered him to hand over affairs of the appellate court to the next most senior justice of the court, adding that it has forwarded a recommendation to President Goodluck Jonathan for his immediate retirement from judicial service. NJC, which took the decision after its seventh emergency meeting said it acted in line with the statutory powers conferred on it by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.

A statement by the council’s Director of Administration, Mr. E.I. Odukwu said: “Pursuant to the powers conferred on the National Judicial Council in the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, Hon. Justice Isa Ayo Salami, OFR, President of the Court of Appeal has been suspended from office with effect from today, August 18, 2011. “The decision was reached at the seventh emergency meeting of the Council held on August 18, 2011.

“The decision which was reached at the National Judicial Council further directs that Hon. Justice Salami should hand over the affairs of the Court of Appeal to the next most senior justice of the court. Meanwhile, a recommendation has been forwarded to the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to retire him from service.” Though the council had on Wednesday, accepted copies of the court processes filed against it by Justice Salami, it however, declined to make any reference to the court action pending before the Federal High Court in Abuja.

It is height of injustice—Salami Meantime, Salami has called the bluff of the council, describing his suspension as “the height of injustice and judicial recklessness.” A source in his legal team, who spoke to Vanguard, yesterday, said the action of the council amounted to contempt of court since the subject matter of the NJC probe verdict that mandated the PCA to apologise to the CJN was already seized by a court of competent jurisdiction. Describing Salami as a victim of “high level judicial conspiracy,” the source said the PCA had vowed to fight the battle to its logical conclusion.

Decision to suspend Salami Vanguard gathered that the decision to suspend Salami was not taken at the enlarged meeting of the council. It was learnt that the meeting convened to consider who should succeed Kastina-Alu was presided over by Justice Moses Abu Bello, President, Customary Court of Appeal, Abuja because the next most senior Justice on the bench of the Supreme Court, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, was away in Saudi Arabia for the lesser hajj. Kastina-Alu, it was learnt, was an hour late to the meeting, which did not last more than 10 minutes.

It was agreed that Justice Musdapher steps-in, in acting capacity, until the confirmation by relevant bodies. Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, President, Mr Joseph Daudu, SAN, it was learnt, noted that since they were at the meeting on the appointment of the incoming CJN, that their business for the day was over and took his leave. Vanguard gathered that the remaining members of the NJC, went into another meeting, at which the decision to suspend Salami was reached and announced.

It was also gathered that an influential member of the council, though not a judge and eyeing the Nasarawa State Government House, was the one fuelling the Kastina-Alu/Salami’s face-off. Suspension illegal — Sagay Reacting to the suspension, Prof Itse Sagay, SAN, said: “The suspension is illegal and unconstitutional. It is a breach of the rule of law because he has already filed a petition at the court appealing the decision of the National Judicial Commission, NJC. By our law, no court in the country is allowed to make any pronouncement on any matter pending in court.

What the NJC has done is a breach of the rule of law and undermining the constitution of Nigeria. “Their action is completely illegal and by what they have done, the judges are the ones destroying the judicial system in Nigeria.” Constitutional crisis — Odinkalu “We are being dragged in a low-quick-march into a constitutional crisis. If the NJC can purport to take these measures in these circumstances with pending court proceedings, what hope is there for justice for the ordinary person? We all have to be grateful that the politicians rejected the recommendation that the NJC should vet appointments to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

One is lost for words at the sight of a high constitutional commission turned into la Cosa Nostra.” Condemnable illegality— Aturu “The news that the NJC had suspended Justice Salami, despite the service on it of the process filed by him challenging the setting up of the Auta Committee, is a condemnable illegality. That the brazen decision was taken by a body that has responsibility for overseeing the judiciary shows that our attempt at building a liberal democracy is imperiled simply on account of the illiberal person, who superintend the administration of justice in this country. “We will not allow this act of primitive lawlessness to stand.

Those who desecrate the temple of justice are not entitled to any protection or respect from civilized citizens. Somehow, somewhere I hope against hope that the news is a rumour. I call on all decent Nigerians to condemn the farcical illegality. The NJC should withdraw the putrid and offensive decision. The suspension of Justice Salami is unacceptable, atrocious, evil, illegal, unconstitutional, irresponsible and cannot stand,” he added Good riddance to bad rubbish—Ex-Governor Segun Oni of Ekiti State   “The suspension of Salami is good riddance to bad rubbish. This is the beginning of the end for perpetrators of black market judgments and judicial infamy in Nigeria.

We have seen nothing yet since we are still at the middle of the judicial melodrama. Though some people tried to cover-up Salami’s brazen unethical practises, but God, who is a God of justice made the Salami judicial infamy too difficult to be swept under any carpet no matter how thick.” Not the best thing for the judiciary— Fagbohun “What the public thinks about this development is very important, because the judiciary is part of the public. This is not the best thing for the judiciary, the development puts the judiciary in a very bad light.

It is very unfortunate that the internal politics has been brought to this level. I do not know the reason they are suspending him, especially when the man is already in court. “Though, they said they were not served, it is in the public knowledge that he is before a court of competent jurisdiction. I had expected that they will allow the matter to be decided by the court. I have never heard that Justice Salami addressed any press conference or granted any interview on the new development. He only approached his lawyer like a normal Nigerian and his lawyers took a step to address his grievances.”

AJ denounces the suspension—Otteh Executive Director of the Access to Justice, AJ, Joseph Otteh, said: “AJ denounces the suspension. It is public knowledge that Hon. Justice Ayo Salami (OFR) has filed a lawsuit challenging the NJC’s order on him to tender the required apologies. Irrespective of what may be the merits of the lawsuit, the NJC, composed of some of the most senior Judges and Justices in Nigeria, should have refrained from taking any step in the matter consistently with the rule of law and judicial precedent established over the course of many years. “This has been the position of Nigerian law over a long period. The NJC itself has severally refused to take action concerning a number of matters and petitions in the past because it said the matters were subjudice. Why is this case different then? ” Suspension not right—Fashanu “I don’t think the NJC acted rightly. If it is true that there is a pending action before the Federal High Court and it was notified about it, then its action in suspending Justice Salami will be rendered null and void at the end of the day.

“Therefore, I think his suspension is not right, not fair and is highly unconstitutional. It is trite law that once an action is in court, no party is permitted to take action that is capable of jeopardizing the ‘Res’ of that case. So I think the NJC was wrong in its action.” NJC has no right to suspend him —Ozoana “I don’t think the NJC has the right to suspend Salami at this stage of the case since the matter has been submitted before a competent court of law. “By suspending Justice Salami, it means that the NJC has already rendered the decision of the high court nugatory. This is a legal body and it is supposed to show good example in the way it conducts its affairs.

If the NJC behaves in this way, what will a layman do? It is bad for the judiciary —Osuagwu “I had earlier advised both parties to make peace and apologise and forget the past but they allowed this matter to go this far. It is bad for the Judiciary and we lawyers. Any person who comes before a judge now will be thinking that his case may be compromised and this is bad. The image of the judiciary is smeared.” Justice Salami ought to have challenged the NJC panel to hear the matter right from the time the panel was set up. I think going to Court now is a bit late since he allowed the panel to adjudicate over the matter. He submitted himself to the panel’s jurisdiction.

It is too late now to complain. What if the panel had ruled in his favour? Will he have filed a lawsuit against NJC? The NJC has power to suspend Justice Salami, in line with its statutory powers under Section 21(g) of the 1999 Constitution. I think there should be a conference of lawyers and judges so that we review how judges are appointed so that we can have sincere and incorruptible judges in the system.”