By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — The legal coast is gradually getting clear for the possible recall of the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami.
A plaintiff, Mr. Wilfred Okoli, has formally applied to the Federal High Court in Abuja to discontinue further hearing on the suit seeking to stop President Goodluck Jonathan from reinstating the embattled PCA.
In the notice of discontinuance dated June 22, Mr Okoli relied on two grounds to urge the court to hands off the matter.
According to him, “I neither gave consent nor authorised that the suit be instituted in the first instance. I did not brief anybody whatsoever to commence the suit on my behalf. I do not have any cause of action against any of the defendants.”
Listed as defendants in the suit were the National Judicial Council, NJC, Justice Salami, the Attorney General of the Federation and President Jonathan.
It would be recalled that when the matter came up for hearing last Tuesday, the supposed plaintiff told presiding Justice Abdul Kafarati that he was surprised when he heard that his name was used in filing the suit.
Okoli maintained that though the principal of his chambers, Mr Amobi Nzelu, appeared as his counsel in the matter, he never consented to either the suit or the principal reliefs being sought against the suspended PCA.
Besides, he told the court that he had been receiving crank-calls from unknown persons, threatening to deal with him for purportedly frustrating moves to recall Justice Salami.
Meanwhile, his principal, Mr Nzelu, said though he was with the plaintiff even before the proceeding commenced, Okoli never made such allegation or informed him of any possible threat to his life.
He, therefore, pleaded for a short adjournment of the case to enable him sort out issues with his junior who he said could have developed cold feet on the matter owing to the alleged threats.
Consequently, Justice Kafarati adjourned the case till September 26, even as he ordered both parties to ensure that the controversy was settled before that date.
Specifically, the said suit is seeking a declaration that President Jonathan is not under any constitutional obligation to act upon the recommendation on the National Judicial Council, NJC, on the issue of Justice Salami.
Other reliefs sought by the litigant included a declaration that the NJC cannot deliberate on an issue which is a subject of litigation.
A declaration that the 4thDefendant’s right to act or not to act upon any recommendation made to him by the 1stDefendant is uninhibited.
A declaration that it is only a court of law duly created by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) that has the power to hear and determine matters between parties.
A declaration that judicial powers are vested in the courts by virtue of section 6 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended).
An injunction restraining the 4th Defendant whether by himself, agents, servants, assigns, privies, or whosoever purporting to act on his behalf from acting on the recommendation /advice given by the 1stDefendant as it relates to the reinstatement of the 2ndDefendant.
As well as an injunction restraining the 1stDefendant whether by themselves, agents, servants assigns, privies or whosoever purporting to act on their behalf from deliberating on issues that are subject of litigation.
It is further urging the court to determine whether president Goodluck is constitutionally bound to accept and act upon the advice/recommendation of the NJC in respect of any judicial officer.
“Whether the 1stDefendant can deliberate on an issue which is a subject of litigation having regards to the extant provisions of section 6 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended)? and if the answer is NO:
“Whether the deliberation and the decision reached in respect of the reinstatement of the 2ndDefendant is not ultra vires the statutory power of the 1st Defendant having regards to the extant provisions of Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended)? and if the answer is Yes:
“Whether the 4th Defendant can be compelled by any order of the court to accept and act upon the recommendation of the 1stDefendant as it relates to the reinstatement of the 2nd Defendant? and if the answer is NO:
“Whether the decision /recommendation/advice made by the 1stDefendant to the 4th Defendant pursuant to the functions assigned to her by the third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) placed a mandatory duty on the 4th Defendant to act upon same. And if the answer is NO:
“Whether the constitution of section 153 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) when read alongside paragraph 21 (b) & (f) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) places a mandatory duty on the 4thdefendant to accept and act upon any advice given by the 1stDefendant.”
It would be recalled that the NJC had at the end of a stormy emergency session it held on May 10, asked President Jonathan to reinstate Salami, nine months after he was suspended on allegation that he lied on oath against the immediate past CJN, Justice Katsina-Alu.
Salami had in an affidavit he deposed before a Federal High Court in Abuja, alleged that the ex-CJN pressurized him to pervert justice in a gubernatorial election appeal dispute involving Sokoto State.
Though Salami personally deposed the affidavit in a suit he filed with a view to aborting purported plans by the former CJN to push him to the apex court bench, the NJC, after its meeting on August 10, gave the PCA, seven days to tender a written apology to Justice Katsina-Alu and the council, saying two separate panels it constituted to probe alleged the feud, found him guilty of “judicial misconduct”.
According to NJC, “having therefore established that the allegation/complaint by the President, Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Isa Ayo Salami, OFR, against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, GCON regarding the Sokoto Gubernatorial Election Appeal was false.
“Council decided that it is misconduct contrary to Rule 1(1) of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Following refusal of the embattled PCA to apologize or recant his allegation, the NJC, via a statement that was signed by itsDirector of Administration, Eugene Odukwu, asked Justice Salami to hand over to the next most senior justice of the Appeal Court.
It stated that: “Pursuant to the powers conferred on the National Judicial Council in the Constitution of the 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 18th August, 2011.
“The decision was reached at the 7th Emergency Meeting of the Council held on 18th August, 2011.
“The decision 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.”
However, the council failed to make any reference to the suit filed by Salami, which is still pending before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.