By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Henry Umoru
ABUJA—The suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, yesterday, dragged President Goodluck Jonathan before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, praying the court to declare the appointment of an acting President of the Court of Appeal, by the President as illegal and unconstitutional.
Salami in his fresh suit, specifically prayed the High Court for an order nullifying both his suspension by the National Judicial Council, NJC and immediate replacement by President Jonathan, without recourse to the rule of law, as unconstitutional, arbitrary, illegal and null and void.
The crisis in the judiciary also yesterday formally spilled into the political arena with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP taking on the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN accusing the opposition party of crying more than the bereaved.
The ACN in a riposte, accused President Jonathan and the PDP of scheming to destabilise the judiciary using some agents within the NJC. The ACN averred that being a promoter of the rule of law that it considered itself and others of like minds such as the Nigerian Bar Association as the bereaved in the ongoing face off between the embattled suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu.
Justice Salami is also asking for a declaration that the swearing-in of an Acting CPA, Justice Dalhatu Adamu, by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, was unconstitutional, illegal and an abuse of judicial process.
Joined as defendants, in the suit were the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Mohammed Bello Adoke, the NJC and the CJN. The suit has been assigned to Justice Donatus Okorowo and will be heard today
Hearing of suits commence today
Meantime, Vanguard yesterday gathered that hearing will today commence on all the three pending suits filed before the High Court, by Justice Salami.
It will be recalled that the embattled PCA earlier went to court to challenge the legal propriety of the NJC investigative report that not only indicted him of lying on oath, but equally mandated him on August 10, to within 7-days, tender a written apology to the council and the CJN.
Sequel to his refusal to apologize and his subsequent suspension by the NJC, the ousted PCA, Salami, re-approached the High Court with a motion on notice, seeking to restrain the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Mohammed Adoke Bello, SAN, and the National Assembly, from taking any step or action directly or indirectly in consequence or in implementation of the recommendation of the NJC, made at its meeting held in Abuja on 18th August, 2011 as it affects the plaintiff/applicant, pending the determination of the substantive suit before this Honourable Court.
The NJC had in a report it forwarded to President Jonathan on August 18, recommended the suspension and immediate retirement of the plaintiff over alleged judicial misconduct.
While mandating the PCA to hand over the affairs of the Court of Appeal to the next most senior justice of the court, Justice Adamu, who was hitherto attached to the Sokoto Division of the appellate Court, the NJC, maintained that the plaintiff, Salami, acted contrary to Rule 1(1) of the Code of Conduct for judicial officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Consequent upon the NJC report, President Jonathan on Sunday, affirmed the suspension of the PCA relying on the provisions of section 238(4) and section 292 (1) (a) (i) of the 1999 constitution , to appoint an Acting President for the appellate court, pending the resolution of the issues relating to the office of the embattled PCA.
Principal relief’s of Justice Salami
Meanwhile, some of the principal relief’s, Justice Salami is seeking from the court, include: “a declaration that the setting up of the National Judicial Council’s (hereinafter referred to as “NJC”) Investigation Committee by the 1st Defendant and its composition are in gross violation of the principles of natural justice, and the Plaintiff’s constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing under Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended) and is therefore unconstitutional, null and void.
“A declaration that the proceedings of the NJC Investigation Committee were conducted in substantial breach of the principles of natural justice and fair hearing as guaranteed under Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended) and the proceedings are therefore unconstitutional, null and void.
“A declaration that the findings of the NJC Investigation Committee chaired by the 4th Defendant as contained in the ‘Investigative Panel Report’ dated 6th July 2011 submitted to the 1st Defendant and addressed to the 2nd Defendant, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, are perverse, unreasonable, and violate the fundamental rights of the Plaintiff to fair hearing, guaranteed under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right”.
“An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the Defendants/Respondents, (either jointly or severally) acting through their agents, privies and/or delegates from taking any action, reaching any conclusions or issuing any directive(s) in any form whatsoever in respect of the findings and recommendations of the 1st Defendant made on the 18th August, 2011 pending the determination of the substantive suit before this Honourable Court.
“An order of this Honourable court setting aside the recommendation of the 1st defendant/respondent made at its meeting of 18th August 2011 against the plaintiff during the pendency of this suit which the 1st defendant/respondent has the foreknowledge of.
“An order of this Honourable Court restraining the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Defendants/Respondents in particular, their servants, agents and/or privies from taking any steps or act on the recommendation and the decision of the 1st Defendant taken at its meeting held on 18th August, 2011, as it affects the Plaintiff/applicant concerning his suspension, removal or any other recommendation thereof pending the determination of this suit.
“An order of this Honourable Court directing that all actions in respect of the subject matter of this suit be stayed by the Defendants/Respondents and that the Status quo ante bellum be maintained by all parties to this case pending the determination of the substantive suit before this Honourable Court.
Other defendants before the court are, the deputy chairman of NJC, Justice Musdapher Dahiru, the Senate President, Senator David Mark, Clerk of the National Assembly of Federal Republic of Nigeria and the National Assembly of Federal Republic of Nigeria.